While hobbyists have been operating RC planes for quite some time now the idea of unmanned aerial vehicles has only just entered into the mainstream limelight, thanks in part to the plethora of cheap quadricopters that have made it easy for anyone and everyone to own an operate a UAV. The Federal Aviation Authority is mulling over regulations on use of such devices and this particular incident just might get it to speed things up.
A federal official has confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that a regional jet of American Airlines nearly collided with an unmanned aerial vehicle near the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida some 2,300 feet above the ground. The jet is capable of carrying 50 passengers.
The official added that this UAV, presumably a RC plane since quadricopters and conventional civilian drones nearly have enough battery power to reach such an altitude was so close to the jet that the pilot that he had collided with it. The pilot described it as a “camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small.” An inspection of the plane after landing showed no signs of a collision.
Nevertheless the risk of such devices being ingested in the giant jet engines of a full fledged airplane very much exists. Since quadricopters and RC plans have lithium batteries and metal parts they might cause serious damage to the engine if ingested. By law anyone flying model aircraft within five miles of an airport is required to notify airport operators and controllers. American Airlines in now investigating the incident.