[KARE11] FAA investigating close call between drone and State Patrol helicopter


MINNEAPOLIS — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a close call between a drone and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter in Minneapolis.

The State Patrol says pilots noticed a drone near one of their helicopters around 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

The pilots were able to avoid a collision with the drone.

The State Patrol says investigators were called to the scene and together with Minneapolis Police officials were able to find the drone’s pilot and make an arrest.

Tony Caspers is the Director of Public Safety Sales at Maverick Drone Systems in Savage.

He says the drone and helicopter in this case shouldn’t have been in the same airspace.

He says federal law states drones can't fly any higher than 400 feet unless the pilot receives specific approval from the FAA.

Caspers says most helicopters are flying around 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

"If you look at aviation accidents, a bird striking an engine of a 747 could down a plane. So, even if it's a drone and it's only two pounds, it's definitely going to take out a plane or helicopter."

Besides flying too high, Caspers says this drone operator could also be charged with flying too close to another aircraft.

"The drone has to give way to any aircraft. So, if there is an aircraft in the air that drone has to come down and get out of the air instantly,” Caspers says.

Kevin Morris is a drone expert with the FAA.

He says there have been drone strikes in the past.

“There have been incidents where we’re had collisions between drones and aircraft. Fortunately for the traditional aircraft involved, it did not cause any further damage than perhaps an emergency landing where the aircraft was still controllable,” Morris explains.

However, due to the growing popularity of drones, Morris says the FAA is concerned that future crashes and loss of life could happen.

“It’s important to remember that although that drone may look like a toy, it’s really an aircraft and you are that drone’s pilot. You’re flying that aircraft in the airspace that is shared with other aircraft in your area.”

The FAA has a special section on its website for drones and pilots.

The agency also has a free app called B4UFly that will show drone pilots the latest rules and all the restricted airspace in the surrounding area.

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