August 31st, 2015

The Drone Report! Episode III

by drone reporter Nicole Pieretti

Alert! Drone danger! There have recently been reports of drones becoming a danger to other planes in the sky. Just a couple of weeks ago, an ambulance helicopter was flying a patient to the hospital had to avoid a mid-air collision with a drone just north of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California. The ambulance copter was about 1,000 feet high when the pilot saw the drone flying directly towards them. The drone came about 15 to 20 feet from colliding with the helicopter.

Apparently, this is becoming an increasing problem. Pilots have reported drones flying near their aircraft 650 times, which is three times more than last year. The federal aviation administer, Michael Huerta, commented on the issue: “The very, very small ones we feel represent much less of a hazard. We’re much more concerned about the higher performance unmanned aircraft, those that are interacting in the airspace with commercial aircraft with private pilots.”

Drones are not allowed to fly more than 400 feet off the ground or within five miles of any airport, but this rule is being ignored. It was reported that a small drone was flying near the left wing of a JetBlue just minutes before it landed. Another drone flew into restricted airspace over Washington D.C. at 1,500 feet. In Louisville, a training aircraft almost collided with a drone flying near it. All of these incidents happened on the same day.

Are these rule breakers being persecuted? The FAA has trouble enforcing drone rules because the person flying the drone is often times so far away it makes it difficult to catch them. There have been no reports of an actual collision but it is only a matter of time. Is there not enough room in the sky?