A helicopter operated by Ohio, US-based CareFlight Air and Mobile Services that was coming in to land at Miami Valley Hospital with a ‘significantly hurt’ patient onboard was delayed by the unexpected presence of a drone aircraft in the air around the hospital. The incident took place on 25 August.
“One of our flight nurses spotted it,” commented Beth Calcidise, programme manager at CareFlight, “and said, ‘Hey, there’s an object flying out here, I don’t think it’s a bird’. Then they saw it take off and they knew it was something other than a bird.”
The drone, it turned out, was being used to take photographs of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, across the street from the hospital. CareFlight’s programme manager had not been notified, which is standard procedure when a drone is being operated. “We have to be able to spot them,” said John Berthy, a pilot with CareFlight. “So if we don’t see it, and it’s a big sky, little bullet theory – if we can’t see the drone until we’re nearly on top of it, it just means we may have to take evasive manoeuvres. We already contend with birds and bird strikes and other civil aircraft operating out there. So drones add another dimension to an already complex set of rules and regulations in air space.”
The helicopter was eventually able to land, and Calcidise said that operators of drones must be sure to follow Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. “My crews want to get home at night-time to their families as much as we want to get patients here and get them taken care of.”