RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A curiously close call was reported at Gate D1 at RDU Wednesday.
Air traffic control attempted to locate a possible drone that a Delta Airlines pilot said was flying just 200 feet over his plane and the runways.
Former commercial pilot Tal Holloway flew for American Airlines for 33 years said the situation presented an immediate safety concern.
"It could be very dangerous depending on where and if it hits the airplane. If it's ingested in an engine, then you're going to probably lose that engine.," said Holloway.
It's a more common problem than you might think. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were seven drone sightings in RDU airspace between January and June of this year.
Airport operations and law enforcement searched the area but weren't able to find anything. But Holloway says drones that enter restricted airspace almost never do so by accident.
"Drones are normally restricted to 400 feet and restricted from access or flying around airports," he said. "So for somebody to do that, it most definitely would be somebody that's doing it with an intent."
Holloway said drones present an added danger. Their small size makes them difficult for air traffic controllers to spot-- leaving pilots responsible for reporting them -- and potentially averting disaster.
"Yeah, that's I hate to say, common but what happens is when somebody does spot an object, you report it to air traffic control so they can investigate it and they can warn any other pilots in the area," Holloway said.
The FAA said they receive more than 11 drone sightings a month and it's a problem they forecast will get worse. The agency says there are currently over 863,000 registered drones in the United States but they predict there be over 2.5 million by the year 2026.