There could be 2.4 million of these little pests in the skies by 2021, according to WSJ piece.
"Drones Are Set For A Surge' (WSJ Business News, March 19, p. B3) is not good news for commercial airline pilots - who've already had to deal with hundreds of close call incidents from reckless drone owners flying their toys in commercial airspace.. According to the piece:
"If drone deregulation gains as much traction as the White House, FAA and industry officials envision, the agency estimates overall commercial drone numbers could top 600,000 by the start of the next decade, or about three times the country's aviation fleet. "
And most worrisome (ibid.):
"When it comes to recreational uses - which have racked up the most explosive growth- the latest FAA forecast indicates the market segment will mos likely double to roughly 2.4 million drones by 2021."
As recently as June, 2014, a WaPo investigation had identified the primary issues with increased drone activity as follows:
What was most inconceivable is that the FAA didn't even have drones on its planning radar at that time according to a Denver Post piece ('FAA Didn't Have Drones On Its Planning Radar - Air Traffic Control Designers Scrambling'). This was in terms of the NextGen Air Traffic Control system. As that article noted:
The bill's passage would "inundate" U.S. skies with tens of thousands of unmanned drones sharing airspace with commercial planes .
"Barely hours after the 374-page bill became public pilot union officials urged a more deliberate approach. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 53,000 pilots across North America, said his organization remains worried about safety issues such as training and certification of those unmanned aircraft."
The article continued by noting that: "Safety experts also have raised questions about the ability of sensors aboard unmanned aircraft to properly detect a nearby plane, and to assure immediate action to avoid a midair collision".
No surprise then that potential drone use was subsequently pushed and primed for: police departments, crop spraying, monitoring of oil pipelines, and now also commercial proposals, i.e. for wedding videographers, real estate agents to show prime properties, and even Amazon deliveries and Google imagery.
A Denver Post, piece: 'Drone Close Calls'(June 25th, 2014, p. 17A) referenced dozens of perilous close calls, e.g.(p. 22A):
"The close calls were the latest in a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian aircraft and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace.."
The accumulating incidents so spooked one commercial pilot (Greg Cromer) that he actually wrote a letter to the FAA opposing the whole insane idea of opening U.S. airspace to these mechanical beasties, writing (ibid.):
"I can see no way to prevent a collision with something that could be as small as a bird or a plane or kitchen appliance."