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Schumer wants new drone tech as airport sightings grow

The Federal Aviation Administration is moving too slowly to implement rules requiring drone manufacturers to install technology that would prevent the aircraft from entering “no-fly zones” like airports, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said.

Schumer told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he will propose an amendment to legislation funding the FAA this fall that would require manufacturers to implement geo-fencing or similar technology to prevent the unmanned aircraft from flying near airports and other sensitive security zones like the White House.

The action comes amid a spike in reports of unmanned aircraft sightings around the country. Schumer cited FAA statistics showing pilot sightings of drones jumped from 238 in 2014 to more than 650 by Aug. 9.

The New York Democrat noted there have been at least seven reported drone sightings by pilots at Kennedy and Newark airports in just the past week or so.

“It’s frightening,” he said in a telephone interview. “All you need is for one of these drones to fly into an engine and a tragedy would result. There have been too many incidents lately.”

He has advocated for Geo-fencing or other similar technology in the past, but said legislation is the only way to accelerate the process. He said manufacturers are already experimenting with software technology that would restrict where drones can fly. He wants the implementation to happen “right away.”

He expressed confidence he will receive support in Congress for the legislation he is proposing.

“When it comes to drones in the vicinity of commercial flights carrying hundreds of passengers at a time, the FAA has been playing whack-a-mole across the skies, and that’s certainly not good enough,” he said.

Schumer said drones are an important technology, and are helpful in collecting data, aiding with border patrol operations, agriculture, as well as training the military.

But there also are dangers, he said.

Schumer said last month a drone interfered with the San Diego Fire Department’s response to fighting wildfires, and in Ohio, a drone recently dropped a package of drugs into the prison yard at Mansfield Correctional Institution.