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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to identify whoever is responsible for illegally flying a drone near Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Between Oct. 30 and Dec. 8, there have been five reports by commercial airline pilots who have spotted a drone flying in their flight path at least 4,000 feet in the air near the Ft. Mill area.

Operations at two New Jersey airports were temporally shut down in January of 2019 due to drone activity reported in the area. According to ABC News, both Teterboro Airport in Bergen County and Newark Liberty International Airport were forced to halt operations after the FAA reported two drones were seen hovering around 3,500 feet by a pilot on their  final approach.

The Pentagon launched an investigation after witnesses aboard Air Force One claim near miss with drone on Aug. 20 of this year. “Passengers aboard Air Force One said that the president’s plane passed “remarkably close” to what appeared to be a drone just before landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland,” KIRO 7 reported.

A Hollywood, California man was arrested for flying a drone into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter last month. The FBI took Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, into custody after he damaged the LAPD helicopter with a drone, the Department of Justice said in a news release. The pilot was forced into an emergency landing. Hernandez was charged with one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, officials said.

In 2018, The Federal Aviation Administration Re-authorization Act included 18 USC 39B, which federally criminalizes “Unsafe Operation of Unmanned Aircraft”. Specifically, knowing or reckless interference or disruption of a manned aircraft, and the operation of unmanned aircraft in close proximity to airports. While the drone(s) did not come into direct contact with an airplane or cause a pilot to make an evasive maneuver, the actions are illegal and extremely dangerous.

Anyone flying a drone as prohibited by law and described in 18 USC 39B can face federal criminal charges, fined and imprisoned for up to life or both. It is possible the drone operator(s) are not aware they are violating the law.The FBI encourages anyone with knowledge of illegal drone flying, especially one or more in the Fort Mill area to contact the FBI at 704-672-6100.

The FBI warns that as we get closer to Christmas, drones will be given and received as gifts. They encourage the public to abide by federal and state laws. You can learn more