TAMPA — Military, law enforcement and commercial aircraft reported several encounters with drones while flying above the Tampa Bay region this year, according to a new report.
In April, pilots spotted an unmanned aircraft flying 20 feet below a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker refueling plane headed to MacDill Air Force base.
Compared to other 2105 drone sightings compiled and released Monday by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the April incident was an especially close call. In most other cases, drones were seen hundreds of feet away.
"The (Federal Aviation Authority) has sent a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal," said MacDill spokesman Terry Montrose.
Of the 764 drone-related incident documented by the FAA, five involved aircraft flying above Tampa, two at MacDill and two near St. Petersburg. In most cases pilots reported they did not need to take evasive measures.
Most incidents took place when the aircraft were thousands of feet in the air. For example, on July 4, a passenger jet about 10 miles north of Tampa International Airport encountered a drone flying 100 feet above it, 3,000 feet in the air.
In March, a drone crashed into a fence on the MacDill perimeter. No damage was caused.