New Drone Pilots Need To Follow Regulations, Be Safe, Says NY and PA Injury Lawyer

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As winter turns to spring in the Twin Tiers and people of all ages get ready to fly the new drone they got for Christmas, I would encourage all new owners of all ages to do some homework, if they haven’t already, before taking to the air.

113154-fullDrones are not toys. If a child will be flying the drone, prepare the child. Drones in the wrong hands can damage property, injure and kill people on the ground, and endanger passing commercial aircraft. It’s a HUGE responsibility, and in careless or uneducated hands, drones can be a dangerous weapon that could lead to criminal charges and lawsuits for the operator and their family. As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I know drones are going to be a big problem for those who don’t respect the power they possess in a drone.

I will say it again: It’s NOT a toy.

A few basics you need to know right now:

Go to the FAA website and look at the rules and regulations on drones. (Click on Part 107 for a summary of the rules and regulations.)

  • You need to register the drone – that is something a lot of people don’t know. The buyer should have been told that when they bought the drone but if not, Remember: Ignorance of the law is no defense.  You can register your drone here.  The good news?  It only costs $5.
  • You must have visual identification of your drone at all times. If you can’t see your drone, you are not operating it properly and you can be subject to penalties and fines.
  • You must not operate your drone over other people, under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Your drone can’t exceed 100 mph or weigh more than 55 lbs.

Most of the new Twin Tiers drone operators will be recreational users. You have to register your drone with the FAA but you don’t need any special license operate it, like commercial users do. A handy site for recreational users is here.

Here are the website’s safety guidelines for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS):

  • Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).
  • Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
  • Keep your sUAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
  • Contact the airport and control tower before flying within five miles of an airport or heliport.
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.
  • Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
  • Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see AMA’s privacy policy).

Do your homework, and be prepared before you take your first flight.

It’s a big responsibility. It’s not a toy.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Helicopter Crash In PA Points Out Dangers Of Small Aircraft, Says NY and PA Injury Lawyer

Investigators try to determine the cause of a helicopter crash that killed five people Saturday night in a remote area of Wyoming County, PA.

Investigators try to determine the cause of a helicopter crash that killed five people Saturday night in a remote area of Wyoming County, PA. (Centre Daily Times photo)

Several families suffered tragic losses this past weekend when a helicopter flying from the Tri Cities Airport in Endicott crashed in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, killing all five people aboard.

Police told the news media that it was a pilot, a father and a daughter, and a father and a son that were killed. They were busy notifying families Monday and did not reveal the victims’ identities.

You can read more about the crash here and here and here.

The crash is a sad reminder of the dangers these small aircraft face. Last fall, a NYSEG employee and a helicopter pilot were killed in Corning while the NYSEG employee was inspecting power lines.

And Monday afternoon, WETM-TV reported that a single-engine charter plane had an indicator light on as it approached the Elmira Corning Regional Airport in Big Flats, but fortunately, as fire crews stood by it landed safely.

Small aircraft like single-engine planes are more prone to accidents than the bigger jets, often because of dangerous conditions they encounter that bigger craft may be able to withstand. Privately owned airplanes may also see less thorough maintenance than the big air carriers, who have teams of mechanics and rigorous standards.

The dangers of helicopters, especially medical helicopters, are well-documented. Helihub.com, which compiles U.S. helicopter crash statistics, said in 2012 there were 133 fatal accidents that killed 420 people, with the military accounting for 50 accidents and 246 deaths.

In the helicopter that crashed Saturday night near a wind farm in rural Noxen, PA, the pilot reported he was losing altitude just before he crashed. The NTSB is investigating and not saying much about what happened.

The R66 Turbine.

The R66 Turbine.

The R66 Turbine helicopter seats four passengers and a pilot, according to its manufacturer, Robinson Helicopter Co. of Torrance, California.

There were reports of severe thunderstorms in the area Saturday night, but it’s not clear yet whether they were a factor in the crash, the news reports said.

The authorities were contacting family members in Leesburg, Va.; Ellicott City, Md.; and Kintnersville, Pa., the news media reported, so it’s unclear whether there is any connection to the Twin Tiers beyond a refueling stop.

The helicopter was heading for an airport in Lehighton, PA, between Wilkes-Barre and Allentown, authorities said.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed Saturday night.

Thanks for reading.