MUKILTEO — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an unauthorized drone flight over Paine Field this week. Officials say it created a potential hazard for aircraft landing and taking off at the airport.
On Wednesday, airport surveillance cameras captured images of the drone, which hovered over the west side of the airport for about 40 minutes. It is illegal to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle within five miles of Paine Field or any airport without FAA permission.
Whoever was flying the UAV risked a collision with aircraft, Paine Field deputy director Bruce Fisher said Friday.
“Drone operators need to understand the gravity of the situation,” Fisher said. “This incident could have put lives in jeopardy.”
An FAA spokesman said the agency is investigating the incident.
Surveillance cameras showed the drone arriving at about 8:20 p.m. from the south. It then headed north along the western perimeter — the Mukilteo side of Paine Field — and lingered until after sunset.
Although no one was injured and no property was damaged at the airport, that wasn’t the case last September when a drone crashed into an airborne U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter in the New York City area. Although one of the helicopter’s rotors was damaged, the pilot was able to land it safely. Authorities determined that the Brooklyn-based drone operator violated a no-fly zone as well as a rule that drones be flown within an operator’s sight.
The FAA promotes voluntary compliance and encourages hobbyists to check out the Know Before You Fly website.
FAA rules for amateur model aircraft and drone operators require that UAVs be registered with the agency, be flown within sight of the operator and be used only for hobby or recreational use. Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. An FAA license is required for those flying drones for commercial purposes.
To learn about regulations or to register a drone, go to www.faa.gov/uas.
To avoid airports and other no-drone zones, you can download the FAA’s mobile app, called B4UFLY.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: @JanicePods