Two incidents involving drones at MacDill
TAMPA (FOX 13) - There were two incidents involving drones at MacDill Air Force Base, including a drone coming to within 20-feet of a refueling plane as it approached for landing, and a separate drone that crashed outside the fence.
FAA data shows that on April 17, two pilots spotted a drone just below their refueling plane.
On March 3, a drone was found crashed outside the perimeter fence of the base.
The revelations come as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduces legislation that will require drone manufacturers to embed in GPS technology blockages on flying to close to airports, public events and other sensitive areas.
"In the last month, there were more than 130 near-misses where drones were near jet airliners," said Schumer.
Pilot Anthony Tsiouklas says there are numerous ways a drone could take down a plane.
"The biggest vulnerability is obviously the front," he said. "You could take one into the engine, they have lithium batteries that could ignite very easily (and because) the windshield is nothing more than plexi-glass, it is very easy for something to penetrate that."
He's been piloting small planes in Tampa Bay since 1992 and has heard commercial and private pilots radio control towers that drones, which are often flown by people trying to take pictures, are getting too close.
"They're in essence a weapon that someone has control of," said Tsiouklas.
Schumer says the drone-maker that sells the most drones in the United States, a company in China, has offered to install the systems in drones
"That solution is virtually foolproof," said Schumer. "It works."
The Academy of Model Aeronautics says Schumer's idea is welcome.
But, they analyzed FAA data of incidents and insist there have been relatively few close calls, only 27 out of 764.
They want the FAA to keep more precise records and do a better job of tracking down those who violate sensitive airspace.
"None of the cases in this report resulted in any types of enforcement actions," said Rich Hanson of the AMA.
Tsiouklas says drone pilots should be licensed the way plane pilots are, and that regulating where they go, and how high, could save a life, even his own.
"I think it's a good thing," he said. "I think it's wise."
MacDill Air Force Base is looking into the two incidents involving drones, but no one was immediately available for comment.
Schumer will introduce his legislation this week.