The number of reported safety incidents involving civilian drones is on track to rise dramatically again this year, with almost as many in the first nine months of 2017 as for all of last year.
Through September, the Federal Aviation Administration received 1,688 reports of drones flying in restricted airspace or otherwise appearing to violate rules. That compares with 1,754 last year and 1,210 the prior year. In 2014, the year the administration first began collecting data, there were only 236 reported incidents.
In response, the agency said in October that it wants to make it easier for enthusiasts to get permission to pilot low-level flights in restricted airspace. The agency said there has been so much pent-up demand that users have been willing to break the law to get their drones in the air.
The number of reported incidents reached a new record of 260 in June. Incidents have risen compared to the same month in the prior year all but once since the FAA first started keeping records in February 2014. There have been a total of 4,889 incidents reported in less than four years.
The FAA encourages pilots, air-traffic controllers and police to report incidents they believe raise safety concerns with drones. Most incidents involve drones apparently operating outside legal boundaries, which typically require that they fly within 400 feet of the ground and within sight of the person in control.