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Passenger jet pilot reports a close encounter with a drone

The pilot of a passenger jet flying into Dallas Love Field on Friday reported seeing a drone within “a few hundred feet” during the approach. The unmanned aerial vehicle was also spotted from the air traffic control tower and authorities are currently trying to track down the pilot.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Boeing 737 (Southwest Flight 28) was traveling from Houston to Dallas and saw the drone about a mile from the airport. The quadcopter was spotted by the aircraft’s left wing although the jet “landed without incident” and didn’t have to take any evasive action to avoid the drone.

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Ground units and a helicopter were dispatched to try and locate the pilot, but so far the identity of the drone operator remains a mystery. “We’re concerned, because these are easily purchased devices, and they have pretty amazing capabilities,” said Mark Duebner, the director of aviation in Dallas

“I don’t think the average person understands the airspace limits around the airport, because they wouldn’t have reason to know them,” he added. “We need to do some campaigns to raise public awareness, though, because we don’t need these anywhere near the airport.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking an “incremental approach” to drone regulations in the U.S. — drones used for commercial purposes, for example, currently require a special license while the FAA works out how it wants to manage their use more widely.

Rules for noncommercial drone use currently require that the UAVs are flown below 400 feet and remain within sight of the pilot. “Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations,” add the regulations and “don’t fly within five miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying” — points that the drone pilot in Texas was obviously unaware of.

Via Ars Technica