MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Hospital pilots sent a warning to drone pilots following a near-collision with a helicopter and a delay in getting a child to medical care.
Hospital Wing is the hospital of the sky. It helps transport patients to the hospital when time is critical. However, a drone interfered with Hospital Wing's mission a few weeks ago and forced a helicopter to abandon its landing and re-route.
"When we had to divert from Le Bonheur down to the hangar here in Memphis, that took at least an extra 20 minutes to get that patient back to the level of care that they needed to get to," Hospital Wing Director of Safety Erik Bratton said.
Hospital Wing choppers fly low, normally below 800 feet to avoid interrupting FedEx and other airlines in the area. That air restriction put them in a drone danger zone.
"We've only got a 100-foot buffer of space in between us and possible drone operations in this area," Bratton explained.
Hospital Wing has five locations in the Mid-South: Memphis, Brownsville, Selmer, Jonesboro, and Oxford. If you plan to fly a drone within five miles of any helipad, you should notify the owners beforehand.
"I don't think it's anything malicious. I think that most of the time people don't understand that when people buy a piece of equipment there are rules and regulations that need to be followed," Bratton said. "They need to download the 'before you fly' app, they need look at their manufactures website and recommendations, they can look at the FAA website."
Bottom line? When you purchase a drone, you become a pilot and must obey the rules of the sky.