Airplanes and helicopters no longer have the skies to themselves. A new report from the FAA lists 583 separate drone incidents reported from August 2015 through January 2016. The majority of the incidents are minor, with pilots or bystanders reporting drones that are flying in restricted airspace without necessarily endangering anyone.
Still, the documents reveal more than a few close calls. One incident outside New York's JFK airport in August saw a drone flying at 7,000 feet, only 20 feet from the plane's right side. The report also lists hundreds of incidents in which drones approached airports or flew above the 500-foot altitude limit proposed by the FAA.
Airports have long been protected airspace, effectively forbidden to drone operators, but that hasn't stopped rogue drones from venturing into that space from time to time. The FAA also recently clarified the laws around race tracks and sports stadiums, imposing criminal charges on anyone who flies a drone too close to an event with more than 30,000 people present. The FBI has been tasked with investigating rogue drones since at least 2013, although it's typically extremely challenging to track down the operator responsible for a given drone.
That's given rise to a profitable business in anti-drone technology, technology that's particularly attractive to airports, prisons and stadiums. The FAA recently contracted a system that would identify rogue drones that venture into controlled airspace, according to documents recently obtained by Motherboard, although the details of that system are still unclear.