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Drones' Near Misses At Westchester Airport Spark Push For Stricter Rules

Drones flying near the Westchester County Airport have become an increasing problem.
Drones flying near the Westchester County Airport have become an increasing problem. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user David Rodriguez Martin

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Near collisions between airplanes and low flying drones in the airspace above Westchester County Airport have officials seeking stricter rules regarding the policing of the self-piloted quadcopters.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been vocal in his support of stricter regulations, calling on the federal government to outline clear rules that more specifically regulate how drones can be used, after several pilots narrowly missed colliding with drones in their planes’ path around the Westchester County, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports earlier this year.

Just last month, Schumer announced that he will introduce an amendment to a bill that funds the Federal Aviation Administration that would require drone manufacturers to implement technology that would keep them clear of airports and major events.

Those operating drones must keep their devices below 400 feet, cannot fly within five miles of an airport, must stay in the user’s sight and must avoid stadiums and people due to privacy issues, according to the FAA.

As drones have become more popular, Schumer is urging the FAA to clearly delineate distinctions between various models.

“With recent instances of drones flying dangerously close to Westchester County Airport, as well as airports frequented by local travelers, like JFK and LaGuardia, it is clear that commercial drone use has crossed over from unregulated to potentially deadly,” Schumer stated. “The lack of clear rules about small drones, what is a commercial versus a hobby drone, and how and where they can be used, is creating a serious threat to New Yorkers’ safety.”

Schumer noted that the FAA has developed drone privacy and usage guidelines, but they are still awaiting federal review before they can be passed into law. Westchester County Airport Assistant Manager Stephen Ferguson has stated that he hopes the FAA regulations are passed sooner than later.

“We are continuing to work with our administration colleagues to finish the rules,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said in a statement. “It is our goal to get the proposal right.”

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