PERSPECTIVE: Remote Pilots Must Stay Vigilant for Helicopter Flights

Drone danger to air ambulances

While the topic of near-misses between drones and airplanes remains a hot topic, helicopters flights are another potential issue that remote pilots may face. Helicopters can appear rapidly and low altitudes not giving a drone operator much time to take evasive action. A air rescue helicopter from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART) flying an active case passed uncomfortably close to a unmanned aircraft system. The near-miss served as a wake-up call for DHART.

“Drones pose a unique safety hazard,” says Kyle Madigan, DHART Director. “We don’t see them on any radar, we can’t communicate with them, and so they are an unknown to us.”

DHART helicopter pilots have encountered five drones flying well above the 400-foot limit established by the FAA, says Madigan. The main issue is that drones are small and hard for the flight crew to spot.

“Crashing into a drone could realistically cause us to crash,” Madigan says.

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