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“You can see us, but we can’t see you!”

This is a test, I repeat this is only a test. A drone strike with Flight For Life helicopter is simulated in a training exercise to prepare for a potential critical incident. The test scenario involves local fire departments assisting “actors” playing victims when the helicopter experiences a hard landing after colliding with a drone.

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Hospital helipads are considered to be airports by the FAA.

 This means that recreational drone users are required to notify a hospital if they are operating a drone within five miles of the facility. Drone pilots need to understand that manned pilots, especially helicopter pilots can’t see drones from their point of view or perspective.

Why is this important?

Feb 12, 2018Questions remain after drone collides with helicopter on Kauai

As a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter flew along the Na Pali coast Friday afternoon, a white drone hit the helicopter mid-flight.

Feb 8, 2018Charleston helicopter crash blamed on drone; FAA investigating

While the student was practicing “low impact and hover taxi maneuvers” above undeveloped land on Daniel Island, they turned and saw a white “DJI Phantom quad- copter” drone headed into their airspace, the report states.

Oct 6, 2017NTSB Investigating Collision Between Drone, S. Army Helicopter.

Bill English, NTSB, details the incident in this interview with Paul Aiken, The Drone U.

I had the privilege to speak with Matt Reinhart, Flight For Life Transport System Safety Officer, before the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center Emergency Preparedness Exercise. I asked him what is one lesson drone pilots can learn about helicopters. He replied, “you can see us, but we can’t see you.”

PJ Kirkpatrick (Terra Vigilis) and Matt Reinhart (Flight For Life)

How far can a drone pilot see to maintain VLOS (Visual Line of Site) of their drone? As most drone pilots are aware, they are required to maintain VLOS of the UAV which for most people is approximately 3,000 ft (0.5 mi) How far can you see a Phantom 4 ?. This will vary depending on your eyesight, type of drone, and sky conditions.

What drone pilots can do to help?

Check an app like B4Ufly or Airmap for the closest helipad and contact the number listed.

Tammy L. Chatman, CMTE, Flight For Life Professional Relations Mgr/PIO, recently presented at the UAS Advocacy Network Seminar about UAS And Air Medical Operations: Safety and Airspace De-Confliction.

Unfortunately, there have been incidences where irresponsible drone operators were flying within 100 feet of running helicopters on the scene endangering the lives of the crew and patient whose life they were trying to save.

If a drone operator finds themselves in an active emergency scene situation, please keep drones grounded until the aircraft has departed. Be aware that there may be more than 1 aircraft responding.

If you are operating near a hospital helipad, call the main number. In my experience, the individual on the other end of the line does not always know how to handle calls from drone operators. Ask to speak to security if they are unfamiliar with the process. At a minimum, provide them the date, time and duration of flight, altitude, and location where the drone will be flying.

Submit a DROTAM in advance by either calling Flight Service at 1800wxbrief or submit a DROTAM from their website. Another method is to us an App such as UA Sidekick which makes it possible to submit a DROTAM from your location.

It’s also recommended to use a VO (visual observer) if you are flying near heliports. Helicopters often fly lower than manned airplanes and if you are flying near buildings the sound of the helicopters can be reduced if you are on the other side of the building the helicopter is coming from.


 Drones are here to stay, and the U.S. FAA expects millions of more drones to enter the market over the next few years. I am humbled to be flying in the same airspace as Flight For Life. All they ask….

Please be responsible remote pilots and do what you can to keep the airspace safe for everyone. Click Here to learn MORE of what you need to know about drones and Flight For Life. For information on how to protect your assets from unauthorized drones, visit