Drones pose serious risk to aircraft

MVY airport is calling on drone pilots to use them responsibly.

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Martha's Vineyard Airport is attempting to educate the public about the rules governing drones. —Courtesy University of Dayton Research Institute

Useful and fun when operated correctly, drones can act like missiles when carelessness sends them into the path of occupied aircraft. Martha’s Vineyard Airport is embarking on a campaign to inform the public of the “dos and don’ts” of drone use in the vicinity of the airport to hedge against a drone-plane accident.

The airport has a five-mile safety zone around it, which requires any drone operator within that radius to seek permission to fly before doing so.

“The big problem right now is educating people,” Geoff Freeman, assistant airport manager, said. Freeman said he is just starting to work with local police chiefs. He wants the public to know some basic safety information about drone use on-Island.

  • Drones must yield to occupied aircraft at all times.
  • Drones must remain within the line of sight of the operator.
  • Recreational drones cannot weigh more than 55 pounds.
  • Drones must fly below 400 feet unless preapproved by the FAA or the airport.
  • Non-commercial drone operators should not fly at night.
  • Flying a drone from a moving vehicle is illegal.
  • Respect people’s privacy.

Freeman said it’s pretty dramatic what a drone can do to a wing. Footage from a drone experiment at the University of Dayton Research Institute shows just how missile-like a common recreational drone can be when striking a plane wing. “They can really take down an aircraft easily,” Freeman said.

While he’s had some complaints from the Deep Bottom Pond area, there have been no collisions near the airport so far.

To get an idea of where you might be in relation to the airport Freeman suggested using the B4UFLY app. To request permission for drone use within the five-mile radius, Freeman said call him at 508-693-7022, ext. 203, or email him at gfreeman@mvyairport.com.