Local News

As drone sales soar, NCDOT reminds pilots: Obey the law

Posted July 5

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation has issued a reminder about drone flying guidelines as drones continue to cause safety concerns across the country.

There are DOT rules and Federal Aviation Administration laws about where people can and can’t fly. As drone sales soar, the big concern is novice operators who put lives in danger by not following the law.

There are 19,000 registered drones in North Carolina, making airspace increasingly crowded.

“One of the biggest challenges is that drone operators are often unaware of all the rules, both at the federal level and at the state level,” said Basil Yap with the NCDOT.

As drone sales soar, NCDOT reminds pilots: Obey the law

Last month, a Charlotte police helicopter took evasive action at 110 mph to miss a drone near the city’s minor league baseball park.

“Had the drone struck the helicopter at that speed, that could have been a catastrophic event,” said helicopter pilot Cody Brown.

A drone operator was arrested in a similar incident last year.

Last month, an American Airlines flight spotted a drone within 1.5 miles of Charlotte Douglas international Airport, despite a five-mile restricted zone around the facility.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport said no unauthorized drones have been spotted at the airport, but in recent years the FAA reports at least four encounters with incoming and outgoing daily flights.

Last November, a flight crew said two unmanned aircraft systems passed 500 feet below a plane flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet.

In May 2016, a drone passed within 100 feet of the left wing of an aircraft. The crew said the blue drone was about the size of a pizza box.

This week, firefighting flights in Arizona were suspended because of illegal drone use. When photos surfaced online, Gene Carpenter was arrested on endangerment charges.

Experts say the clash of manned and unmanned aircraft is a growing danger locally and nationally.

“We want to protect people’s privacy as well as people’s safety, and that would include being aware of airport operations,” Yap said.

In addition to laws intended to prevent potential collisions with aircraft, there are also restrictions against flying over people, private property, prisons and military bases.

The North Carolina Division of Aviation has a guide to using drones safely and legally.

Recreational drone users must always fly below an altitude of 400 feet and may not fly within five miles of an airport or near emergency response efforts or other aircraft. Recreational drones may not weigh more than 55 pounds, and night flying is not recommended, even if a drone is equipped with lights.

Anybody flying a drone for non-recreational use muse obtain a permit from the North Carolina Division of Aviation.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Charles Boyer Jul 6, 10:14 a.m.
    user avatar

    Drones are subject to federal aviation law (in addition to the state's commercial flight rules) and the fines are real and heavy for the irresponsible operators who fly near airports or over people. Common sense should tell people not to do that, but unfortunately common sense is extremely uncommon these days.

  • Sheila Rohrbach Jul 5, 7:46 p.m.
    user avatar

    from what my kids tell me Amazom will be using them for one hour delivery???

  • Douglas Roberts Jul 5, 6:33 p.m.
    user avatar

    NCDOT says obey the law ??? BAAhahaha .. yeah , they say that , but are they lawful in all of what they do ? I know different