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Illegal drone activity diverts, hold flights at N.C. airport, FBI investigating

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:50 PM EST
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WBTV) - Illegal drone activity caused airport officials to divert, suspend and hold flights in North Carolina Tuesday, the FBI says.

The FBI is seeking to identify the person(s) responsible for illegally flying the drone above the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro.

Employees in the control tower informed the airport that a drone was flying over the airfield on March 9, 2021, at 9:15 p.m.

Air traffic controllers switched runways and periodically suspended flights while the drone was flying in the area. They also held flights on the ground and one flight diverted to another airport.

Over the next two hours, multiple law enforcement agencies and fire department officials worked to locate the drone’s operator, but were unsuccessful.

Normal operations resumed at the airport around 11:30 p.m.

Officials say the drone appeared to launch from the area of Market Street and Regional Road, but was seen at multiple locations over airport property.

In 2018, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization 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, officials say the actions are illegal and extremely dangerous.

Anyone flying a drone as prohibited by law can face federal criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment.

FBI officials encourage anyone with information to assist in this investigation to contact the FBI at 704-672-6100.

It is possible the drone operator(s) are not aware they are violating the law. When operating a drone, the FBI encourages the public to abide by federal and state laws. You can learn more https://www.faa.gov/uas/.

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