Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Close Calls at South Florida Airport Highlight Drone Dangers

Drones may be a hot holiday gift this year but they're not a toy, as two recent South Florida incidents point out.

 NBC 6 Investigators have learned that one crashed at a South Florida airport and another recently violated tightly controlled airspace.

The unmanned aircraft aren't supposed to be anywhere near North Perry Airport in Broward, or any other one but NBC 6 has learned one actually crashed onto the taxi way. It's a real concern for the Broward Aviation Department and pilots flying out of the airport. 

Drones may be a hot holiday gift this year but they're not a toy, as two recent South Florida incidents point out.

NBC 6 Investigators have learned that one crashed at a South Florida airport and another recently violated tightly controlled airspace.

The unmanned aircraft aren't supposed to be anywhere near North Perry Airport in Broward, or any other one but NBC 6 has learned one actually crashed onto the taxi way. It's a real concern for the Broward Aviation Department and pilots flying out of the airport.

These days unmanned aircraft are everywhere and that's exactly what the fear is.

"There's going to be hundreds of thousands of drones, many of them recreational, given out as gifts," said Michael Nonnemacher, with Broward Aviation.

That means more drones in the hands of those unfamiliar with flight rules. In South Florida, the director of operations for two airports in Broward said an unmanned aircraft was recovered after it not only flew into North Perry's airspace, it came onto the airport and eventually tumbled on to a taxiway.

"This was found crashed on the airport. Imagine this impacting the front of an aircraft, the front of a propeller or going into an engine which it could destroy instantly. And that's really where the threat is," Nonnemacher said.

Drones are supposed to stay at least five miles from all airports and fly no higher than 400 feet but Broward Aviation officials said recently another drone came on or near the airport property at North Perry. It got away before they could track it back to its operator.

"Well I think it's terrible. I think the drone operators need to operate safely out here. If they are operating near an airport that's illegal," said Lisa Landsman, with South Beach Helicopters. "We operate tours and charters out here and we operate safely but these drone operators are not following the law."

The FAA's new rules require operators to register their unmanned aircraft, something aimed at getting operators to learn the rules before they take off.

"The number of close calls that we have had continues to increase," Nonnemacher said.

Now if you don't register your unmanned aircraft later could come a hefty $27,000 fine. That aside, the fact that a drone would actually crash onto the taxiway where there are helicopters, banner planes and a variety of aircraft is making aviators nervous when so many of the drones are under the Christmas tree.

Story and video:   http://www.nbcmiami.com

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