Drone delays medical helicopter landing at OH hospital

(WDTN) An unexpected drone in the area around Dayton, Ohio's Miami Valley Hospital prevented a CareFlight helicopter from landing, with a "significantly hurt" patient onboard.

"Picture yourself driving down the highway and something flies in front of you. That's the same for us It's very very difficult," says CareFlight pilot John Berthy.

Berthy wasn't in the cockpit Monday night, but he knows what it's like to have something blocking his path.

"We already contend with birds and bird strikes and other civil aircraft operating out there," he explains. "So, drones add another dimension to an already complex set of rules and regulations in air space."

Beth Calcidise, the Program Manager of CareFlight, said there was an extra sense of urgency Monday night when a drone got in the way.

"One of our flight nurses spotted it, 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." 

Calcidise called Dayton police, and MVH campus police to find the person flying the drone, before the helicopter could land.

Police discovered a man using the drone to take aerial photos of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds across the street from the hospital.

He never notified Calcidise, something she said is crucial when operating a drone.

Berthy said the other problem is the lack of electronic detection– pilots only have their eyes and ears.

"We have to be able to spot them. 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 maneuvers.

Calcidise said drone operators need to follow FAA guidelines, staying at least 400 feet away from hospitals.

"My crews want to get home at nighttime to their families as much as we want to get patients here and get them taken care of."


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