HEAR or SEE a Manned Aircraft? Land the Drone.

Ball, Amandal
Amanda Ball, MedFlight Safety Officer, FAA Safety Team Representative

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV/UAS/drones) provide a great service when assessing damage in disasters, emergency scenes, and search missions.  This industry will aid first responders and emergency management personnel in ways we’ve not seen before, and at MedFlight, we proactively work to “Share the Air” with UAS enthusiasts and professionals with UAV pilot workshop opportunities, constant conversations with air medical and aviation organizations, and more.

We do ask that UAS pilots “Share the Air” as well.  Manned aircraft (any type of aircraft with a pilot inside and at the controls) have the right-a-away in almost any in-flight scenario you can think of.

While in-flight, our pilot and medical crews are constantly scanning the horizon and communicating risks they may identify to each other.  The helicopter itself is also scanning its surroundings for obstructions with the aid of several comprehensive awareness systems.  The crew also utilizes the customized Air Medical Resource Management training they receive throughout the year to help accomplish their goal of completing a safe mission.  These are just a few pieces of a large effort to remain situationally-aware in an ever-changing environment.

Consider this… on average, air medical helicopters cruise between 120-170 knots, depending on the airframe…around 2-3 miles a minute.  While cruising altitude for VFR flight averages around 1500 ft AGL, flight teams are often descending into destinations well-before they arrive there.  Think of the descent pattern for a commercial airplane when approaching the airport.  It’s the same concept, but over a shorter distance, and with more unpredictability.  Our flight requests differ from day to day, location to location.

How can you help?  If you launch a UAV under a professional OR recreational setting, land it immediately if you see or hear another manned aircraft in the area.  Deconflict the airspace by exiting it as soon as possible.

Manned aircraft teams have a harder time seeing your UAV than you do seeing them… UAVs often blend into the horizon when viewed from above… even with lights, bright colors, etc.

It’s always a good idea to remain situationally-aware while you fly.  We appreciate your efforts to keep our aviation community (including you) safe!

There is a ton of great information out there on safe flying practices.  The FAA has made it easy for UAS enthusiasts and professionals to learn more and stay safe:  Keep up to date on rules and regulations, register your drone, and receive on-going training at https://www.faa.gov/uas/ and https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/

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Graphic courtesy of the FAA.

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