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Highway Patrol Helicopter in Close Call with Unregulated RPAS Operator

The operator of a drone that forced a California Highway Patrol helicopter pilot to take evasive action Saturday night could face federal prosecution, according to law enforcement officials.

A CHP helicopter searching for a stolen vehicle was flying above eastbound Highway 4 in Martinez at about 9 p.m. when the pilot spotted a red light outside of the cabin, straight ahead, and very close, said Officer James Andrews, spokesman for the CHP air operations unit.

The pilot determined it was a drone, flying at the same altitude of 700 to 800 feet, and veered to the right to avoid a collision. The drone passed to the left, close to the helicopter. The pilot circled back and illuminated the drone with a spotlight. He followed it, watched it descend for a landing, and directed Martinez police to Roux Court.

A Martinez police officer spotted a man carrying a drone into his front yard. The officer interviewed the man, whose name has not been released, and forwarded a report to the CHP, said Martinez police Sgt. Fred Ferrer. The man was not arrested or cited, but the incident will be investigated by federal and local authorities, and he could face federal charges, Andrews said.

“This was a close call,” Andrews said. “Everyone got away without injury. But it could have been worse.”

Andrews said he hasn’t seen the drone or read the interview with its pilot, but he said remote-control flying devices pose a serious threat to licensed aircraft.

“Absolute worse-case scenario: The drone could come through window and take out the pilot, and the helicopter could come down,” he said.

Andrews said the incident was the first time a CHP helicopter in the Bay Area had to take evasive action to avoid hitting a drone. But the rising popularity and falling prices of drones are expected to put many more in the skies around Christmas. That worries law enforcement officials as well as the Federal Aviation Administration.

“It’s definitely something that’s very concerning to us,” Andrews said. “With more people getting drones over the holidays, it is going to get worse.”

He advised drone owners to “use some common sense,” flying below the tree line, away from neighbours’ homes and far from piloted aircraft.

Andrews, also a CHP helicopter pilot who was off duty Saturday, acknowledged that he has a personal interest in keeping drones out of the way of piloted aircraft.

“If your level of aircraft experience is that you ordered something from Amazon,” he said, “you ought to stay out of the federal air traffic system.”

Source: SF Gate

– See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2015/12/08/highway-patrol-helicopter-in-close-call/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=cbd042a9b9-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_799756aeb7-cbd042a9b9-239458957#sthash.WAcBgRGu.dpuf

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European Pilots Want Regulations on Recreational Users

In a new position paper, the European Cockpit Association – the European pilots’ union – have outlined a number of prerequisites for the safe integration of light RPAS, often referred to as ‘toys’, into Europe’s low level airspace.

“A broad misconception is that small drones are harmless ‘toys’ flying at low level. However, RPAS, even light ones below 1 kg, can cause significant or even catastrophic damage to, for example, helicopters in case of a collision as helicopters have a number of vulnerable, critical components, such as the tail rotor or main rotor head,” ECA President Dirk Polloczek said.

“Even below 500 feet there is a lot of air traffic, such as air ambulances, police or fire fighting. The same applies to the airspace next to airports, with a frequent incoming and outgoing traffic. Contrary to scheduled airline flights, most of the low-level air traffic (e.g. police or air ambulances) are not predictable in time and place, but all are subjected to strict air operations rules. So should RPAS be.”

At this moment recommendations for worldwide requirements for RPAS are being developed by the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS).

In Europe, the National Civil Aviation Authorities are currently responsible for RPAS operations with a weight of 150 kg or less, which leads to diverging rules from state to state.

With the ‘Riga Declaration’, signed by the European Commission and various stakeholders, and the European Aviation Safety Agency’s proposed ‘Concept of Operations’ Europe has taken a decisive step to open its skies for RPAS.

ECA has outlined a set of key regulatory standards to ensure safety in lower level airspace when RPAS are integrated with other traffic:

  • Introduction of approved automatic detection and      avoidance equipment on RPAS;
  • Placing responsibility to see and avoid manned aircraft      on the pilot of the RPAS;
  • Training and licensing of RPAS-pilots in a way that      knowledge and skills – but also awareness and airmanship – are on a      comparable level as manned aircraft pilots;
  • Compulsory registration for all RPAS;
  • Informing the public about the dangers of recreational      RPAS (DOs and DON’Ts).

“We face an immense challenge to safely integrate RPAS,” said Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA Secretary General. “The Riga Declaration spells out important principles. But we need to be meticulous in our assessment and way forward when it comes to the details. We simply cannot afford to fail. This would be disastrous both for the RPAS industry and for aviation safety. As such we hope that Europe’s future drone rules will be a leading example worldwide when it comes to safety and security.”

– See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2015/05/12/european-pilots-want-regulations-on-recreational-users/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=4b99cdb13d-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_799756aeb7-4b99cdb13d-239456333#sthash.0riVHW3B.dpuf

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FAA Streamlines UAS COAs for Section 333

The Federal Aviation Administration has established an interim policy to speed up airspace authorizations for certain commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS) operators who obtain Section 333 exemptions. The new policy helps bridge the gap between the past process, which evaluated every UAS operation individually, and future operations after we publish a final version of the proposed small UAS rule.

Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

  • 5 nautical miles (NM) from an      airport having an operational control tower; or
  • 3 NM from an airport with a      published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
  • 2 NM from an airport without a      published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
  • 2  NM from a heliport with      a published instrument flight procedure

The “blanket” 200-foot COA allows flights anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and other areas, such as major cities, where the FAA prohibits UAS operations. Previously, an operator had to apply for and receive a COA for a particular block of airspace, a process that can take 60 days. The agency expects the new policy will allow companies and individuals who want to use UAS within these limitations to start flying much more quickly than before.

Section 333 exemption holders will automatically receive a “blanket” 200 foot COA. For new exemption holders, the FAA will issue a COA at the time the exemption is approved. Anyone who wants to fly outside the blanket parameters must obtain a separate COA specific to the airspace required for that operation.

– See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2015/03/25/faa-streamlines-uas-coas-for-section-333/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ac9c62c3ee-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_799756aeb7-ac9c62c3ee-239456333#sthash.RcwDYHOD.dpuf

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