Officials discuss dangers posed to aircraft by drones, lasers

Special Report: Expert: Wayward drones pose danger to airplanes >>

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse hosted a discussion Wednesday with law enforcement and airport officials on the dangers posed to aircraft by drones and laser pointers.

Speaking at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Whitehouse said those devices are growing threats to airliners and he wants something done about it.

“We know from that wonderful heroic effort when Captain Sullenberger landed that plane on the Hudson that just a bird going into an engine can take out an aircraft,” said Whitehouse. “A metal drone could do just as much or more damage.”

Whitehouse previously pushed legislation in Congress to make pointing lasers at planes a crime. Now, the senator is sponsoring a bill that would do the same for reckless drone operators.

Congressman Jim Langevin joined Whitehouse for the roundtable discussion.

“While affordable recreational drone operation is an exciting technological development, we must figure out a way to resolve the serious risks to airplanes that occupy the same airspace,” Langevin said in a statement. “We want drone operators to be able to enjoy their hobby, while still respecting the safety issues and privacy concerns that come with being a responsible drone pilot.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said pilots reported more than 1,200 drone sightings last year, a 500 percent increase from 2014.

All drones over 250 grams must now register with the FAA. Since instituting that program in December, the agency said more than 400,000 drones have been registered nationwide.

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