February 1, 2018
Drones have become a rapidly growing industry in the last few years. People fly them for a variety of reasons, including photography, research, farming applications, survey work, rescue work, and pleasure. With the growing number of drone owners, we can count on a growing number of manmade objects in the sky being flown by people who know nothing of aviation.
Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous people who are very conscientious about their operations and conduct them safely and within regulation. Unfortunately, not everyone does so. You may have heard stories about fire fighting efforts being ceased due to danger to the crews because somebody thought it would be cool to get aerial footage of fires.
Fire fighters aren’t the only emergency responders that have had to deal with wayward drones. Police efforts have also been hampered at crime scenes and security areas. Drones have also interfered with med evac flights. There is even a story of a drone flying over the fence of an Air Force base, right over the security personnel who watched it, and proceeded to fly over the parked aircraft on the ramp. Major airports, including Heathrow, have reported drones hovering on final approach.
In 2014, there were 238 reported encounters with drones. Just one year later, in 2015, there were 650 reports. Drones outnumber manned aircraft over two to one.
Not all drone operations conducted are negative. Drones have been very successfully used in search and rescue operations, most recently cited in the news for dropping life rings to two children pulled out to sea by a rip tide and saving their lives.
Knowing about the potential hazard is the first step. Keep an eye out for potential drone traffic. If you do see anything, report it to the FAA as soon as you can. If you are talking to an air traffic controller at the time, tell them so they can warn other aircraft operating in the area. ATC can also have local law enforcement assist in the situation.
Become an advocate for safe drone operations. Most people do not understand the potential danger. Make sure to tell friends and family who buy drones for themselves or their children that there are safety concerns and the drone should be operated in accordance with regulations. Unauthorized drone activity causing a danger can lead to jail time. Refer anyone interested in drones to the “Know Before You Fly” website for a plethora of useful information and guidance.