By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – It was a close call for passengers heading to Denver from San Francisco but they likely didn’t know a drone came close to their flight.
“We had two pilots earlier today report seeing an unmanned aircraft system, or drone as they’re more commonly known, about seven miles north of the airport,” said Heath Montgomery, spokesperson for Denver International Airport.
Last June DIA started tracking drone encounters for airliners. So far there have been 13 reports from around the airport from either law enforcement or pilots spotting the drones.
“They’re potentially dangerous and it’s illegal to fly them on or near airport property,” Montgomery said. “It creates a potentially very dangerous situation with airplanes.”
When a drone gets near DIA the airport works with the Federal Aviation Administration, FBI, the Denver Police Department, and usually the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to investigate.
The FAA only allows drone operators to fly 400 feet above the ground and they must stay at least five miles away from the airport. But pilots have seen drones thousands of feet in the air, creating the close encounters that could be catastrophic.
“Any time we see something that is of concern to pilots or the airport we’re going to dispatch police officers in partnership with the FBI the FAA and the Denver police to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep pilots and passengers safe,” Montgomery said. “They’re potentially putting people and planes at risk by flying them near the airport. We just want people to fly them safely and in a legal way.”
Drone operators are encouraged to read up of the FAA guidelines at knowbeforeyoufly.org.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.