Federal aviation officials say there have been more than 650 sightings of drones near planes so far this year. Senator Charles Schumer is introducing a law he believes could help prevent one of those close encounters from turning disastrous.
Schumer, who visited Buffalo Wednesday, spoke of his proposed legislation, which he hopes to include as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Bill scheduled for consideration by Congress this fall. It would mandate the installation of "geofencing" technology in drones.
That technology, which Schumer says is already available and is supported by drone manufacturers, would work to prevent the remote-controlled aircraft from entering selected zones such as airports or other high-security areas.
"If we had such a law, no drone could fly near an airport," Schumer said. "Its software would automatically stop it from flying there. No drone could fly above 500 feet. No drone could go near a sensitive place and you could build it into the software."
The senator says drones have potential for many commercial uses and are enjoyed by hobbyists. His proposed legislation, he told reporters, would allow drones to be used for both purposes without imposing a ban on the aircraft. In his words, one wouldn't need to "throw out the baby with the bath water."
At least seven drone sightings were reported near Kennedy and Newark airports in the past week, according to Schumer. The FAA reports this year's count for the year, through August 6, more than doubles the 238 sightings reported in all of 2014.