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Unmanned drone nearly collides with U.S. airplane

If the FAA didn't already have a strong case for regulating the use of private drones, it may now. A jetliner in Florida nearly collided with a drone 2,300 feet up in the air. 

Although the incident occurred in March, an FAA official at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco used it as an example of one of the potential hazards of flying drones:

"The airplane pilot said that the UAS was so close to his jet, that he was sure he had collided with it. Thankfully inspection to the airliner after landing found no damage. But this may not always be a case." (Via sUAS News)

The flight involved was US Airways Flight 4650, which live flight tracking site FlightAware shows as being on its way from Charlotte, North Carolina to Tallahassee.

Citing NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, Bloomberg reports that there have been at least six other incidents since September 2011 where a pilot has reported a close call with a potential small unmanned aircraft.

The drone involved in the March incident was reportedly painted with a camouflage pattern and resembled a small F-4 fighter jet.

Business Insider writes that "drones pose the same engine ingestion risk to planes that birds do" and linked video of a model RC F-4 jet that would have been similar to the one described by the pilot. (Via Radio Control Aircraft Gallery)

CNN noted a previous close call last year when a flight approaching New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport reported a drone coming within 200 feet of it.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, a Slovenian drone maker chief executive said that "The genie is out of the bottle because people are already flying without understanding [the risk]. It's a disaster waiting to happen."

The FAA has said that it plans to set regulations for civilian UAV operations by 2015. 

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