Small unmanned aircraft systems, often called “drones,” are becoming increasingly popular. Drones are easily purchased and make good gifts for hobbyists and commercial users alike. Recent improvements in technology help operators fly their drones higher, faster, longer, and further than ever. Additionally, drones are getting heavier and larger in size.
For all their benefits and increased performance, it should also be noted that drones pose hazards to pilots of manned aircraft and the public. At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Randolph Air Force Base), drones are a serious flight safety and security concern and Air Force pilots have recently observed drones in local airspace above populated areas. Any mid-air collision would have been catastrophic, and any evasive maneuvering required by the pilot also puts everyone at risk.
To help minimize the risk of an accident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established guidelines to help drone operators, the public, and pilots. Commercial users (those people who operate drones for profit) must request a waiver to fly within five miles of any airport. They can contact JBSA-Randolph easily by dialing 210-652-7827 to start the process. The vast majority of drone operators, however, are hobbyists. To ensure safety for all involved, hobbyists should call 210-652-7827 before flying within five (5) miles of JBSARandolph. Hobbyists don’t require a waiver or permission before operating their drones, but they are required to notify the airport and air traffic control. A call to 210-652-7827 helps the Air Force inform drone operators of potential hazards, and provides information detailing the activity and pattern location of manned aircraft.
A drone operator must also continuously adhere to certain restrictions. The FAA requires drone operators to maintain visual contact with their aircraft at all times. Drone operators must yield right-of-way to manned aircraft (stay well clear). Additionally, a special security instruction prohibits drones from flying within the confines of JBSA-Randolph itself. For everyone, the adage of “see something, say something” applies. Call 210-652-7827 or other public safety officials if you see anything questionable about safe flight near JBSARandolph. Flying should be safe, fun, and productive for everyone!
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