BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s growing alarm about drones interfering with planes, fire and police operations. Some lawmakers want it to stop before it’s too late.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren takes us inside those close calls.
Lawmakers are saying the FAA does not have the teeth to enforce these drone policies. At this point, there have been several incidents at airports and also at some sensitive government sites.
At the recent 300 Men March on North Avenue, just feet from Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner, a drone flew overhead. It’s a sight that’s no longer out of the ordinary.
But they’ve also caused big problems. A Homeland Security report reveals more than 500 incidents of rogue drones hovering over sensitive government sites in the past three years, including at nuclear plants.
And there are the close calls at airports, including in New Jersey on Sunday.
There have been no major incidents involving drones at BWI Marshall, but the head of the FAA says he is concerned about a surge in incidents at other airports.
“The FAA has to act and toughen up the rules before a tragedy occurs,” said Senator Charles Schumer, (D) New York.
The FAA can only fine recreational drone users interfering with air traffic, but the agency, without many staff for enforcement, rarely does. And that’s not the only problem.
“Unfortunately, the essential element that’s still missing is the uncertainty of prosecution because it’s been difficult to catch them in the act,” said Capt. Sully Sullenberger, Miracle on the Hudson.
In California, where drones have hampered response to wildfires, the response has been stronger.
“We will prosecute you for murder,” said Mike Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney.
Under a new law in Maryland, police and fire departments can now test drones themselves, which they did at a fire in Saint Mary’s County. But concern for other uses remains.
“I have a lot of questions when it comes to the data collection. First of all, how are they going to collect it? Where’s it going to be stored? Who has access to it?” said Del. Deborah Rey.
There still are a lot of questions about privacy.
As for police, they’re now testing the use of drones in hostage or other potentially violent situations.
Just this summer, drones have been used to smuggle drugs into a jail in Ohio and one knocked a woman unconscious at a parade in Seattle.