Las Vegas Sun

October 27, 2021

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Drone danger: Analysis reveals four near-misses in Las Vegas skies

giving notes July 5

AP Photo / John Locher

Drones fly at the Autel booth during the International CES Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Las Vegas.

In February, a Robinson R44 helicopter observed a drone flying 100 feet underneath it near the Bank of America building in Downtown Las Vegas. A few months later, in July, a Eurocopter EC35 traveling at 3,000 feet nearly collided with a drone flying 1,000 feet away about a mile north of the Rio.

These incidents represent two of the four reported incidents in the valley in which drone aircraft nearly crashed with manned aircraft, according to an analysis of FAA data since November.

The reports include sightings in which manned aircraft came into close proximity of a drone or were at risk of colliding with one.

Last Friday, the FAA released data about the time, place and location of sightings since November. The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College analyzed that information, finding that there were 295 incidents in which there was a risk of collision across the country.

In the Las Vegas Valley, there were four near misses, all with helicopters, and one sighting from a small plane. The one sighting in the valley occurred this May, when a light-sport Flight Design CTLS observed a small black drone operating at about 3,650 feet near the North Las Vegas Airport.

As the FAA has loosened its restrictions on drones in recent months, the agency has reported that the number of close calls with manned aircraft has soared across the country. In 2014, manned pilots reported 238 sightings to the FAA. By Aug. 9 of 2015, that number had nearly tripled to about 650.

Unmanned aircraft collisions, particularly if the drone collides with a helicopter rotor, could be fatal for pilots and their passengers.