When we first came across a video last week of a drone’s dramatic encounter with an airliner, like a lot of people we assumed it was fake – or at least impossible to verify as real. Now, the FAA confirms to Flying it is taking the video very seriously, and members of the drone community are coming forward to say it is 100 percent real – and a stupid stunt that tarnishes their whole community.
The video, originally posted to a drone enthusiast Facebook group by someone called James Jayo Older who describes himself as a Las Vegas high school student, shows the drone quickly climbing to an altitude of at least 1,000 feet mere seconds before a Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 flies under it. Drones are restricted to heights of no more than 400 feet, but a custom-built racing drone like the one many drone enthusiasts suspect was involved in the Las Vegas incident would not be bound by the “geo-fencing” algorithms that are built into consumer drones.
Internet sleuths determined that the drone took off from a parking lot near the Whitney Mesa Nature Preserve about 3.5 miles due east of McCarran’s Runways 25L and 25R. It then quickly climbed above the flight path of the inbound Frontier jetliner before zeroing in on its flight path with its HD camera. The drone comes within hundreds of feet of the Airbus A320, and even its tail number, N210FR, can be clearly seen in the video.
These clues could help investigators determine when the video was shot. Drone industry groups were quick to condemn the drone pilot, who faces a world of trouble if caught. Older has reportedly confirmed the video is real but says he didn’t shoot it. An FAA spokesman said the incident is under investigation. If the perpetrator is found, the penalty could be as severe as a $250,000 fine and three years in prison.