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FAA teaches drone safety

January 14, 2017 Digital Media Exclusive

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With great technology comes great responsibility.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety team program manager Henrik Vejlstrup spoke to 53 hobbyists and aviation professionals Saturday at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport about drone safety.

“Use common sense and follow the rules,” he said afterward, summing up the gist of his message.

Vejlstrup interspersed cautionary tales of a young boy with a damaged eye and an 11-month-old girl who was cut and bruised by a drone with safety guidelines for operating drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“You do not fly over people, because what happens if you lose control or the battery falls out? It falls like a rock,” Vejlstrup said.

He stressed the importance of reading the instruction manual before operating a drone. He also spoke of the vitality of flying below 400 feet, keeping the drone in sight and away from other aircraft, as well as away from stadiums and sporting events.

In addition, Vejlstrup said operators should never fly drones under the influence of alcohol, and should never fly drones near emergency response efforts, such as fires.

“That would be a concern to me, because a drone flying over a fire, that’d be a lot of heat for the drone,” said Unionville Assistant Fire Chief Mike Iscrupe, who attended the presentation. “Also, you’d have to look at the legal aspects of that.”

Vejlstrup said drones can do serious damage to other aircraft, and showed a video of people acting out what a drone could do if it hit the tail of a helicopter, causing the helicopter to crash and leading to fatalities.

Don Bernier, a certified pilot from Youngstown, Ohio, was at the presentation, and appreciated the video.

“(Vejlstrup) was being brutally honest,” Bernier said. “As a pilot by trade that’s an equal concern. At the same time I see drones as a wonderful tool, and an evolving technology.”

Bernier was impressed with the presentation.

“I thought (Vejlstrup) provided a good picture of situation awareness, and the importance of drone operators being responsive and having respect for (National Aviation Services),” he said.

Those interested are able to see where drones are flying across the nation on websites such as seeandroid.org and forthillgroup.com.

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