SEATTLE, Wash. — A routine Coast Guard training exercise nearly ended in a mid-air collision, according to a statement from the Coast Guard’s 13th District. The incident occurred near Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles on Saturday, March 17.
The crew of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter were conducting low-level training in the area of the airport when they had to suddenly evade a recreational drone. At 300 feet up in the air, the Coast Guard crew at first thought that they were seeing a bird, when they came within 50 feet of impacting the drone.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict guidelines for drone operation. Drone operators are supposed to provide notification to airport traffic control if they are flying within five miles of an airport. They are also supposed to yield right of way to manned aircraft and keep their drones within line of sight.
The manager of Fairchild International Airport confirmed that this drone had not been authorized to fly in the airport’s vicinity.
“Drone operators who are unaware or complacent of existing FAA regulations pose a significant safety threat to aircrews and risk serious damage to the aircraft,” said Lieutenant Commander Brent Schmadeke, operations officer at Air Station Port Angeles.
FAA regulations for drones differ between commercial and recreational use, but all drone owners are supposed to be aware of the regulations that apply to them specifically before operating their drones.
The FAA’s model aircraft operating standards, derived from the FAA Modernization Reform Act of 2012, are easily viewable by the public (you can read up on them, below).