By Amanda Becker
(Reuters) - U.S. aviation officials have seen hundreds of cases in which unmanned aircraft may have posed a danger to planes, and new rules on drones expected this year are designed to prevent collisions and other accidents, the top aviation official said on Sunday.
"The thing that we are most concerned about is to ensure that any aircraft in this system do not come into conflict with one another," Michael Huerta, who leads the Federal Aviation Administration, said on CNN's "State of the Union."
The new FAA rules on drones, expected this year, will address how drones are certified, the purposes for which they can be used and who is qualified to operate them, Huerta said.
Huerta said the FAA has enforced hundreds of cases "where we have seen someone operating one of these things carelessly or recklessly, posing a danger to aircraft."
On at least 25 occasions since June 1, pilots have reported drones nearly colliding with larger aircraft, the FAA revealed in a report last week.
Huerta said the FAA has been working with clubs to educate people about proper drone use. Hobbyists who fly drones mostly follow the same rules as when using a model aircraft - flying no higher than 400 feet, not near an airport and always maintaining line of sight. Drones are expected to be a popular holiday gift this year.
The National Transportation Safety Board this month confirmed the FAA had the authority to apply its "reckless or careless" standard to a drone, bolstering the FAA's position that it can regulate unmanned aircraft.
Huerta said that the FAA, in crafting its rules related to unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds, is weighing the interests of those who would like to begin using drones for commercial purposes against those of airline pilots, who are concerned that drone aircraft can be difficult to see.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; editing by Doina Chiacu and Rosalind Russell)