Drone sighting prompts brief halt to flights at Washington National

An airplane takes off from the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, US, March 18, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

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July 21 (Reuters) –Officials halted flights into and out of Reagan Washington National Airport for about 13 minutes on Thursday after a drone sighting was reported, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

The FAA said it immediately notified law enforcement and said operations have resumed but there were some residual delays. The FAA did not immediately respond to a question about whether the drone or the operator was located.

The area around Washington National Airport has the strictest prohibitions on drones in the United States. Flying a drone within the 15-mile radius of the airport is prohibited without specific FAA authorization, a requirement that covers all of Washington, DC.

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The FlightAware.com tracking service said 90 flights at National had been delayed, or 20% and seven were canceled. Washington National is the closest airport to the US capital and used by many lawmakers and other government officials.

A 2019 drone sighting near New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport required 45 flights to hold while nine flights were diverted.

Last week, the US Congress held a hearing in which lawmakers and US sports leagues backed a bid by the White House for expanded powers to detect and disable threatening drones.

Congress in 2018 expanded authority of the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to disable or destroy threatening drones, which are formally known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The Biden administration has asked Congress to renew existing authority and expand its powers as the number of registered drones jumps. The 2018 drone-policing powers are set to expire in October.

The White House wants to extend powers to detect and destroy or disable threatening drones to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for airports and the US Marshals Service for prisoner transports.

DHS official Samantha Vinograd said TSA since 2021 “has reported nearly 2,000 drone sightings near US airports, including incursions at major airports nearly every day.”

She added that “since 2019, drone incidents have caused US airports to fully halt operations three times, and in 2021, over 30 partial suspensions of operations –resulting in millions of dollars of economic damage.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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