Boone County, Ark. Regional Airport officials locate drone during runway check

Boone County Regional Airport recently found a “recreational” drone about 15 feet from the runway, while crews were conduction a routine runway check.
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 4:57 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Boone County Regional Airport recently found a “recreational” drone about 15 feet from the runway while crews conducted a check.

The toy drone was approximately six inches in diameter, and airport crews estimated similar models are $50 or less. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has precise regulations on the flight of unmanned aircraft systems such as drones, which are dependent on the class of airspace one is being flown in.

“Our airport is in a Class E airspace. A drone is not allowed to go zero feet within four miles of our airport and can then go up to 400 feet after that,” said Boone County Regional Airport Manager Judy McCutcheon. “That covers the entire city limits of Harrison, Arkansas, with the exception of the far southeast side. That is a no drone sight unless you are a 107 drone operator, and get permission with the FAA before you fly.”

Registered commercial operator drones have tracking numbers that can be used to track down the owner. That is not required for recreational drones, although they are subject to a federal offense.

“It’s a federal offense, even though this is a recreational drone with no tracking information,” said McCutcheon. “It was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, proper procedure. If they located who owns the drone, they would have a conversation with them. It could be up to a $10,000 fine or punished up to five years in prison.”

Regardless of the size of a drone, it can present a significant safety hazard.

“The basic principle of these drones is they’re small, and we’re flying between 150-250 knots,” said William Coleman, a retired airline pilot. “By the time you see them, if it’s in your path, you can’t avoid them.”

Coleman spent more than 30 years with American Airlines and said before drones, birds were the biggest concern, which he has seen do extensive damage. He says regulations need to be followed, but people also need to use common sense.

“We just need people to pay attention,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to judge how high 400 feet is while looking at a drone on the ground. You don’t know how high it goes. I don’t worry about commercial drones as much. Those people are aware of the rules and pay attention. But the smaller drones can be just as much of a hazard.”

Those with Boone County Regional say the most important thing is to build community awareness of the rules and dangers.

“If you’re flying them recreationally, just be careful and remember there are other things in the sky taking airspace,” said McCutcheon. “It’s not a toy when it comes to humans and their lives. It’s not a toy. It’s something we need to make everyone aware of.”

The FAA recommends its app B4UFLY to all recreational drone pilots to know if they operate in a no-fly zone.

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