New Drone Working Group Formed in Miami-Dade

The worry that drones could bring down an aircraft or be used in a terrorist attack is the focus of law enforcement and aviation experts in South Florida and a special working group is now being formed to deal with it.

South Florida is one of the top spots in the country when it comes to commercial flights, private light aircraft, and law enforcement is now trying to get in front of any potential trouble from drones.

The members of the working group that's being led by the Miami-Dade State Attorney are really trying to accomplish two tasks. The first is to develop rules on how police officers should respond when there is an emergency call made about one of these unmanned aircraft. The second is they want to educate the public about what these drones can do and can't do so there isn't a problem in the first place.

A video captured by a commercial helicopter pilot over the BB&T Center shows a drone flying underneath him. The helicopter pilot said the drone could have brought his aircraft down.

"Some of the near misses are at large metropolitan airports so that in itself is a problem that we need to actually face," said Orlando Villaverde, with the Miami-Dade Unmanned Aircraft Task Force.

Villaverde, an aviation and law enforcement expert, sits on the new working group aimed at making Miami-Dade safe when it comes to drones.

Last month a Jet Blue pilot making his approach to land in South Florida reported seeing an unmanned aircraft at 5,000 feet, extremely high for a drone.

The FAA said through August of this year there were 764 of what it calls encounters between drones and manned aircraft, 93 of them taking place here in Florida.

"We need to actually to come together and be able to work on a collaborative effort to minimize any risk factor that's out there," Villaverde said.

Also sitting on the working group are the Miami-Dade State Attorney, Miami Dade Police, the City of Miami Police, the F.B.I. and the F.A.A. The team is working on rules for police to follow.

"It's the municipality that are going to be working in conjunction with the FAA but that's something that is still an ongoing process and hasn't been finalized yet even though there are existing criminal law that could be imposed on somebody that does violate the law," Villaverde said.

The FAA directives require non-commercial operators to fly unmanned aircraft below 55 Pounds, stay below 400 Feet, remain five miles from airports and keep the drone in sight and clear of manned aircraft.

"The hobbyist is what we are trying to make sure that they understand the dangers that is associated with operating a drone," Villaverde said.

So this team has a big job on its hands. The State Attorney's Office is trying to get the rules formulated and presented to the police chiefs in Miami-Dade and that should happen by the end of the year. Violators of the laws on the books face civil penalties and also jail time.


The Federal Aviation Administration released data recently based on reports of hundreds of sightings and incidents pertaining drones in flight paths.

Click on each dot on this interactive map to see each of the unmanned aircraft system sighting reported to the federal agency. The FAA collected 765 drone incidents in the United States, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, from November 2014 to August 2015. A total of 93 drone sightings have been reported in Florida with 41 of those occurring in the South Florida area – Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

-Map by Mc Nelly Torres

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

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