Keep drones away from medical helicopters, Carilion warns

Although we have not yet reached the era when processions of drones whiz by in organized clusters on skyways overhead, some experts are aiming to resolve the conflicts the airborne machinery could have with medical helicopters before they become pervasive.

Representatives of Roanoke, Va.-based Carilion Clinic issued a warning Tuesday against drones flying too closely to aircraft piloted for ambulatory uses, according to The Roanoke Times. Two minor encounters have occurred between drones and medical craft so far this year.

While the Federal Aviation Administration instructs recreational drone operators to keep their craft below 400 feet, drone operators do not generally have access to the communications of aircraft operating in this shared airspace, which increases the risk of accidents.

Ideally, coordinators at takeoff and landing sites for medical helicopters will scan the area for drones before notifying the pilots and attempting to reach out to the drone operator with a request for them to land the craft, according to Susan Smith, director of Carilion's Life-Guard Helicopter Program.

Neither of the two incidents reported so far in 2015 negatively impacted the ability of the medical aircraft to assist people in need, but Carilion is hoping to bring the issue to the attention of drone owners and operators before a conflict results in an adverse event.

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