Dangerous encounters and near collisions in the air between manned and unmanned aircraft have been a growing concern in aviation safety.
“There is little doubt that over the long run the potential benefits of advanced unmanned aircraft and other increasingly autonomous systems to civil aviation will indeed be great, but there should be equally little doubt that getting there while maintaining the safety and efficiency of the nation’s civil aviation system will be no easy matter,” according to a National Academy of Sciences’ report, “A New Era of Flight,” published on June 5, 2014.
On Feb. 23, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted a “notice of proposed rulemaking,” a first step in the effort to develop operational requirements for small unmanned aircraft systems operated for commercial purposes in the National Airspace System.
At a previous rulemaking, in 2012, the FAA decided that the existing safety code was sufficient. However, many people in the field now feel the agency vastly underestimated the proliferation and impact of the drone use, especially among the recreational/hobbyist market. The current emphasis is on how to integrate unmanned flights into civilian airspace and prohibit model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.
Proposed new rules address operational limitations, operator certification and responsibilities, and aircraft requirements. Small unmanned aircraft would be limited to daylight-only operations, confined areas of operation, and visual-line-of-sight operations.
The FAA currently prohibits small unmanned aircraft operations within 5 nautical miles of an airport unless the drone operator notifies the airport. Hospital heliports are also covered under this, but many hospital-based flight programs worry that this has not been clearly communicated to the small drone operators or the public. The FAA is working to correct the oversight.
To address this threat to hospital-based flight programs, the University of Chicago Aeromedical Network (UCAN), Air Methods and Medical Express (MedEx) Ambulance Service are hosting a safety event in Chicago on July 17 that will focus on the impact that the surge of unmanned and unregulated flights has on helicopter safety.
The event, “Flying Safely in a Shared Airspace: Manned and Unmanned Aircraft,” is part of the MedEvac Foundation International’s Great American Safety Drive. It will include safety presentations, drone demonstration, “fly-in” by Chicago-area helicopters and a tour of Chicago’s new business, government and private helicopter facility.
It will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2015, at Vertiport Chicago, 1339 S. Wood St., at the southwest corner of Chicago’s medical district. Between 12:45 and 2 p.m. there will be presentations on:
- Helicopter-to-helicopter communications and cooperation for safe flying in common areas
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly referred to as drones — introduction, operational rules, and safety in the shared airspace with manned aircraft
- UAV operations and safety considerations from the perspective of a drone builder and pilot
Invited guests include:
- Illinois and Indiana air medical transport programs (helicopter and fixed-wing)
- Emergency medical service providers, including fire, police and public safety organizations
News, commercial and corporate helicopter programs
- Operators of unmanned aircraft
To register or for more information, call UCAN at 773-702-3222 or email UCAN.firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who intend to come to the event by helicopter should contact Vertiport Chicago at 877-902-0202 or email email@example.com