Medical Helicopter Crews Concerned About Drones

Franklin Co., VA - The crew of Carilion Clinic Life-Guard says there is concern in the air medical service community regarding the use of unmanned aircraft, commonly called drones, over accident scenes.An Ohio man was charged recently after flying his drone to capture video of an accident. Police say the aircraft kept a medical helicopter from landing as quickly as possible.Alex Greve, an unmanned aircraft operator from Amherst County, says operators must always practice the 'see and avoid' technique. He always flies with at least one other person."It's always good to have a spotter, checking for air traffic or anything you can't see," said Greve. "Once that thing takes off your eyes are now in the sky"Greve and his spotter heard a plane nearby, within minutes of a Tuesday practice flight."His estimated altitude is 3,000 feet. My maximum intended altitude was 150 feet. We're well out of his airspace," said Greve."The person on the ground is the see and avoid factor," said Dave Balthazor, a pilot for Life-Guard 10. "We're depending on them to avoid a manned aircraft," Balthazor says spotting an aircraft the size of a drone from the helicopter's cockpit would be difficult."It might look about the size of a spec on our windshield here," said Balthazor.Balthazor says the main concern for helicopter crews is on approach and departure. The pilot doesn't know from one call to the next where he'll have to land the chopper; in a field, on the highway, or a hospital helipad."AtRoanoke Memorial, you've got a huge park down there," said Balthazor. "People enjoying themselves with hobby aircraft could very easily think let's go to the park and fly a UAV.""Could it hit the blades and do damage? Yeah, it could. Could it take it down? I don't know," said Balthazor."A turkey buzzard or an eagle or a hawk is a more dense bird that what we're flying," said Greve. "Our aircraft is very seldom over three pounds. They're made of either styrofoam or plastic."