Pilot Encounters Drone Where It Should Not Be

The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System just shared this disturbing drone story.

A private pilot sighted what was thought to be a large bird in controlled airspace. The pilot’s confusion changed to surprise when the species was identified.

The pilot reported, “I departed Grand Prairie Municipal Airport at 2,500 feet with a southerly heading until I was clear of Cedar Hill (all the big towers). Once clear, I started to turn left to overfly Mid-Way Regional Airport [JWY] and climb to 3,000 feet. [Beyond the] Class B [airspace], I started my climb to 7,500 feet toward the Little Rock area. I was using Terrell Municipal Airport as a fix and a check for weather and altimeter [setting] when I noticed something that looked like a bird.

I see a lot of birds of different types, and I thought I was seeing a bird at first. I thought, “Good, I’m higher and the bird should not be a factor.” Then I tried to refocus my eyes as the movement wasn’t quite like a bird; it was close, but not the same. Worse, my brain was not making sense of what kind of bird this might be as I was trying to “see” a black vulture.

My eyes kept telling me that this black vulture had four evenly spaced red dots (as a square) on its back.

Then I got mad – that’s a drone. And since I don’t know a lot about them, I have no way to process how close the drone was. My best guess is within 500 feet.

My position was…southwest of Terrell Municipal Airport at 7,500 feet.”