FAA: reports of worrying drone flights surged last year

There were 582 reports just between August and this January.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As drones become more accessible and affordable, the chances for abuse go up... and the Federal Aviation Administration has the evidence to prove it. It just posted an updated list of sighting reports that shows how less-than-responsible drone flights surged "dramatically" last year. The data shows that there were 582 reports just between August 2015 and January 2016. Combined with the 764 reports from before (November 2014 to August 2015), it's clear that many people are playing fast and loose with the rules.

Many of the reports are pedestrian, and frequently involve seeing a drone near a conventional aircraft. However, some of the observers note that the drones got uncomfortably close -- in a few cases, just 50 feet away. There aren't reports of collisions with aircraft, but at least one pilot had to change course to avoid an accident.

Statistically, the odds of drones creating serious problems are quite low. However, the sightings are only likely to fuel the FAA's belief that it needs to regulate drone usage through registration and no-fly zones. It's doubtful that the agency wants to look complacent if a drone triggers a crash.