Drones Vs Manned Aircraft: Recent Close Calls Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Drones vs Manned Aircraft: Recent Close Calls 


In this essay, the author discusses manned (piloted) and unmanned aircraft (drones).  The essay explores the differences between the two types of aircraft.  It includes a brief exploration of the history of both types of aircraft, with a focus on the history of unmanned aircraft.  It also looks at the wide variety of types of drones, which can run the gamut from small drones meant to fly at low altitudes to military-level aerial vehicles. The author then goes on to discuss the challenges of having manned aircraft and drones in the same airspace, beginning with a discussion of the use of drones in uncontested airspace.  Finally, the essay focuses on recent close calls between drones and manned aircraft and the implications of those close calls on aviation safety in both military and civilian contexts.  

Essay Topics 

Exploring how drones and manned aircraft can safely navigate the same airspace. 

How to prevent accidents between drones and manned aircraft when they are in common airspace.  

Understanding how drones could increase the number of international incidents linked to aircraft and steps that governments can take to avoid those problems.   

Learning the differences between drones and manned aircraft and how those differences can impact how the vehicles are operated in shared airspaces.   

Running a root cause analysis on recent close calls for drones and manned aircraft in the same airspace.   

Essay Titles

Flying Blindly: Are Drones Less Safe than Manned Aircraft

Air Traffic Accidents

Close Calls: A Breakdown of Recent Near Misses between Drones and Manned Aircraft

How Drones Have Changed the Face of Aviation

Drones vs Manned Aircraft: Does Anybody Win if They Collide? 

Essay Outline

I. Introduction

A. Manned and unmanned aircraft

B. History of drones

C. Uncontested airspace

D. Recent close calls

II. Defining manned and unmanned aircraft

A. Unmanned aircraft (drone definition)

B. Manned aircraft definition

III. History of drones

A. When drones were created

B. Types of drones

C. Use of drones

IV. Uncontested airspace

A. Define uncontested airspace

B. Define contested airspace

C. Rules for flying in uncontested and contested spaces

V. Recent close calls 

A. Military context

B. Civilian context

VI. Conclusion


For much of the history of aviation, most aircraft have been manned aircraft.  A manned aircraft refers to an aircraft that is piloted by a crew that is inside the airplane.  A drone or unmanned aerial vehicle refers to an aircraft that does not have a human pilot on board (Wikipedia, 2020).  While drones may seem like a relatively new concept, they actually have a history that is long and varied.  In fact, anyone who has ever seen someone pilot a model airplane was actually watching an unmanned aircraft.  While drones have been around for as long as widely-used manned aircraft, there is no question that they are becoming increasingly common.  In fact, drones are being used for more and more purposes, commercial, recreational, and military, every day.  This has led to drones being present in contested airspace, not just the uncontested airspace that was once the almost exclusive location for people using drones.  As a result, there have been a number of close calls between manned and unmanned aircraft.  

Essay Hook

Unless some precautions are enacted, it is inevitable that one of these close calls will eventually result in unintended fatalities.   

Thesis Statement

Therefore, it seems clear that society needs to adopt universal standards for the use of drones in contested or otherwise occupied airspace. 


While the use of drones may seem to be a recent phenomenon because of their presence in the news and in everything from toy advertisements to Amazon deliveries to weapons, unmanned aircraft have actually always been a significant component of the aviation industry.  Understanding the difference between manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft is important to understanding how the two types of vehicles can exist in the same…

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…(FAA, 2020).  In addition, flights below a certain level may also be subject to certain state and local ordinances.  Other countries have similar regulatory agencies and guidelines.  Generally, these guidelines are designed to keep drones from being flown in the same airspace as manned aircraft, or, when they are, to track the drones’ flight paths to prevent collisions. 

However, ignorance of these rules and some lack of skill among drone users has led to some near-misses between drones and manned aircraft.  In fact, it would be impossible to thoroughly examine all of these near-misses.  According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s records, there were “1,171 near misses between drones and planes nationally in the first six months of 2019” (Van Osdol, 2019).  The number of collisions and near misses is only expected to increase as the number of drones in the air increases.  One of the major causes of these collisions or near misses is ignorance on the part of drone operators, who are intentionally flying the drones outside of their own lines-of-sight, and interfering with the use of restricted airspace.  Only by educating drone operators about air safety rules and regulations can the risk of accidental collisions be reduced.  However, that leaves the problem of intentional interference.  It is very possible that a large enough drone could take down a small manned aircraft, which means that drones have to be considered as a possible means for terrorist attacks if operated by people with bad intentions.  

In addition, the use of drones in a military context can really increase the danger of deaths from friendly fire.  For example, the United States Air Force UAV accident rate is more than four times as high as the accident rate for manned aircraft.  In addition, “collateral damage from UAV attacks continues to be high at 32 percent” (Chopra, 2013).  This leads to an increase in deaths from friendly fire, including civilian deaths, and has threatened relations between allies, notably between the United States and Pakistan after a drone attack…

Sources Used in Documents:


Chopra, A.  “Manned vs Unmanned.”  SP’s Aviation.  August 2013. http://www.sps-aviation.com/story/?id=1278.  Accessed 30 November 2020.

Federal Aviation Administration.  “Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”  FAA.gov.  23 November 2020.  https://www.faa.gov/uas/.  Accessed 30 November 2020.

Turrell, B.  “Up, Up, and Away: Prosser Balloon Rally.”  Yakima Herald.  4 November 2019.  https://www.yakimaherald.com/magazine/outdoors/up-up-and-away-prosser-balloon- rally/article_cb0609ac-d661-5bf6-8eb9-93e506f88548.html.  Accessed 30 November 2020.

Van Osdol, P.  “Near Misses between Planes, Drones on the Increase.”  WTAE.com.  14 November 2018.  https://www.wtae.com/article/near-misses-between-planes-drones-on-the-increase/29800897.  Accessed 30 November 2020.

Vyas, K.  “A Brief History of Drones: The Remote Controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”  Interesting Engineering.  29 June 2020.  https://interestingengineering.com/a-brief-history-of-drones-the-remote-controlled-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-uavs.  Accessed 30 November 2020.

Wikipedia Editors.  “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”  Wikipedia.  27 November 2020.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle.  Accessed 30 November 2020.  

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