Near-Misses Prompt NCDOT to Remind Drone Pilots about Flying Rules

Local and federal guidelines and laws regulate usage of the devices

Near-Misses Prompt NCDOT to Remind Drone Pilots about Flying Rules
Image: Pixabay
July 6, 2017

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is reminding drone pilots about flying rules that they are required to follow.

More Drones, More Danger

A series of near-misseshas prompted growing concern over drone safety, says WRAL. The main concern comes from new pilots who endanger lives by breaking the law.

Airspace is becoming more and more crowded as drone popularity grows. There are 19,000 drones registered in North Carolina alone.

"One of the biggest challenges is that drone operators are often unaware of all the rules, both at the federal level and at the state level," said the NCDOT's Basil Yap.

A Series of Near-Misses

A police helicopter from Charlotte was forced to take evasive action at 110 miles per hour last month in order to avoid a drone close to the city's minor league baseball park.

"Had the drone struck the helicopter at that speed, that could have been a catastrophic event," said Cody Brown, the helicopter's pilot. A drone pilot was arrested in 2016 in a similar incident.

Also last month, a drone was seen from an American Airlines flight flying within 1.5 miles of Charlotte Douglas International Airport even though there is a five-mile restricted zone around the airport. Though no such incidents have occurred at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the FAA has reported at least four encounters in recent years between drones and either incoming or outgoing flights.

In November 2016, two drones passed 500 feet underneath a plane flying at 4,000 feet, according to the flight crew. And in May 2016, a drone came within 100 feet of the left wing of another plane.

"We need people to be careful," the NCDOT's Steve Abbot told ABC11. "We don't need drones buzz-bombing roadways or running into buildings or causing problems for other things in the air."

Rules for Flying a Drone

There are laws for both drone hobbyists and those who fly the devices for work, and there are several rules that apply to both categories. These include:

  • Fly below an altitude of 400 feet at all times
  • Fly inside your direct line of sight
  • Know what the FAA's airspace requirements are
  • Don't fly close to stadiums, public events, or directly over people
  • Don't fly close to aircraft, especially near airports
  • Don't fly close to emergency response efforts
  • Don't fly for compensation
  • Don't fly at night
  • Don't fly any drones weighing more than 55 pounds