Fort Worth

Guess what an F16 pilot saw on a taxiway? It surely didn't belong there

A drone similar to the one in this photograph was discovered Jan. 6, 2018 in an unusual location in west Fort Worth.
A drone similar to the one in this photograph was discovered Jan. 6, 2018 in an unusual location in west Fort Worth.

A drone found earlier this month on a taxiway at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base has heightened concerns about the devices in secured areas.

It was the second reported unmanned aircraft at or near the Fort Worth base since last summer.

An F16 pilot reported seeing the drone on the morning of Jan. 6 and the device, which carried a camera, was found by airfield staff, according to base reports.

No aircraft were damaged in Fort Worth, but last year research commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration concluded that small civilian drones could cause significant damage to airliners and business jets in midair collisions.

The Fort Worth drone was a Promark Drone P70-CW with a built-in WiFi signal, battery-powered, with automatic takeoff and landing, and the ability to stream, record and photograph live footage to smartphones, according to the base reports.

The owner of the drone, which can be purchased at Walmart, has not been located, according to the reports.

jan. 6, 2018 map drone.jpg
This is the location where an F16 pilot reported seeing a drone on the ground Jan. 6. Courtesy: NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base

An investigation continued this week.

"The drone itself has been turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Services," base spokeswoman Karin Krause said in a Tuesday email.

She said there have been two drone intrusions at or near the base.

Last summer, a drone was spotted flying over Lockheed Martin and airfield staff were notified, but the device departed the area before authorities arrived.

The report on the latest drone at the Fort Worth base was announced Monday during a regional coordination committee meeting between cities and the base.

"That's a danger," Fort Worth councilman Dennis Shingleton said Tuesday in a telephone interview. His district includes the base.

"The city is not opposed to the devices," Shingleton said. "But they (drone owners) have to take a certain amount of responsibility with them, and not fly them in secured areas or near active runways."

The FAA and its partners have been conducting drone detection research in the vicinity of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Since September, authorities in the United States have investigated two collisions between drones and aircraft.

According to a Bloomberg report, an Army helicopter was hit by a Phantom 4 drone on Sept. 21 near Staten Island, N.Y. The drone damaged the UH-60 Black Hawk chopper's rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crew landed safely.

No injuries were reported Oct. 12, when a Skyjet plane approaching Quebec's Jean Lesage International Airport was hit by a drone.

The device caused minor damage to the plane's left wing.

Reports of possible drone sightings have continued to increase in recent years, according to FAA reports.

There were 1,274 reports of sightings from February 2015 through September 2016, compared to 874 for the same period in 2014-2015.

The reports came from residents, law enforcement, air traffic controllers and pilots.

The FAA receives more than 100 such reports each month.

Drone owners with a device that weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds are required to register them with the FAA.

In 2017, the FAA estimated 2.3 million of the devices would be sold for recreational use in the U.S. As of this week, 1,011,074 residents had registered with the FAA as owners of small, civilian drones.

For months, FAA officials have waged campaigns to deter owners from operating drones around airplanes, helicopters and airports because it is dangerous and illegal.

A FAA research center released a study last year indicating that while most drones weigh only a few pounds, they include equipment that could case significant damage to wings, aircraft engines or windshields on impact, according to the Bloomberg report.

Unauthorized operators are subject to fines and criminal charges including jail time, according to FAA officials.

The FAA has levied civil penalties for a number of unauthorized flights throughout the country.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr