Airplanes, helicopters seeing more close calls with surge in drone use

Recently, many reports have come out about close calls with flying objects and airplanes, from the Blue Angels here in Detroit back in May, to a report a few weeks ago that Air Force One nearly hit a drone descending just outside of Washington, to last week about a man on a jetpack at LAX.

The SkyFOX drone team consists of seven people carefully trained and certified by the FAA, but hobby fliers might not have the same training. And at Oakland County Airport the Director of Central Services says that could lead to dangerous problems.

"There have been incidents where somebody has called the tower and says, 'I've had a near-miss with a drone.' That gets your attention," said J. David VanderVeen. 

And that got our attention, given that Oakland County Airport is the second busiest airport in our state.

"If you think about it, a drone could go through an aircraft's windshield, it could be ingested in a turbine engine, it could do damage to the structural surfaces. There are a lot of different ways it could bring an airplane down," VanderVeen said.

Here at FOX 2, our drone pilots are required to get certified with the FAA. We know all the regulations, but that's not always true of drone hobbyists.

"The rules for operating a drone and under what conditions and where, they are spelled out clearly when you buy a drone," VanderVeen said.

Important for airplanes of course, but we bumped into a helicopter pilot who explained it's even more important for them.

"For us as helicopter operators, we operate at a lower level and lower altitudes than the airplane guys do and for that, in itself, we operate in the very same airspace that drone operators fly in. So we almost have to be extra judicious on to where you fly your drone and what we scan for," said Benjamin Tong, chief pilot with Michigan Helicopters. 

Bottom line, if you fly a drone - or even a jetpack - know the rules and be careful.