The diameter of the toy drone was around six inches, and the airport staff believed that identical models cost little more than fifty dollars.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has very clear rules regarding the flying of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and these restrictions vary depending on the category of airspace in which the recreational drone is being flown.
“Our airport is in a Class E airspace. A drone is not allowed to go zero feet within four miles of our airport and can then go up to 400 feet after that,” said Boone County Regional Airport Manager Judy McCutcheon according to KY3. “That covers the entire city limits of Harrison, Arkansas, with the exception of the far southeast side. That is a no drone sight unless you are a 107 drone operator, and get permission with the FAA before you fly.”
The recreational drone did not show an FAA registration number, even though the agency requires all drones flying in the national airspace to be marked with the number in a condition that is legible, permanently affixed to the drone, and legibly displayed on an external surface of the small unmanned aircraft.
“It's a federal offense, even though this is a recreational drone with no tracking information,” said McCutcheon. “It was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, proper procedure. If they located who owns the drone, they would have a conversation with them. It could be up to a $10,000 fine or punished up to five years in prison.”
Recreational drone can pose serious risk
It doesn't matter how big or little a drone is; it can still pose a serious risk to people's safety.
“The basic principle of these drones is they're small, and we're flying between 150-250 knots,” said William Coleman, a retired American Airlines pilot. “By the time you see them, if it's in your path, you can't avoid them.”
“We just need people to pay attention,” he added. “It's pretty hard to judge how high 400 feet is while looking at a drone on the ground. You don't know how high it goes. I don't worry about commercial drones as much. Those people are aware of the rules and pay attention. But the smaller drones can be just as much of a hazard.”
People who are affiliated with Boone County Regional Airport feel that raising public awareness of the hazards and guidelines is the single most critical thing that can be done to prevent drone incidents such as this one.
“If you're flying them [drones] recreationally, just be careful and remember there are other things in the sky taking airspace,” said McCutcheon. “It's not a toy when it comes to humans and their lives. It's not a toy. It's something we need to make everyone aware of.”
We at DroneXL highly recommend that all pilots of drones take the free FAA's TRUST exam online and utilize an app like B4UFLY to determine whether or not the region in which you want to fly your drones is safe to do so.
Photos courtesy of KY3.
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