By Cynthia Yip
HONOLULU (KITV) — The Honolulu Fire Department and the Federal Aviation Administration are warning drone operators not to fly over restricted air space during HFD rescue and fire fighting operations.
The Fire Department says recreational drones make it difficult for firefighters to do their job and to rescue patients who need help.
“A lot of these recreational drones are a lot smaller, so it becomes harder for us to see them…it becomes a safety hazard for us,” says Justin Sato, HFD helicopter pilot. “The biggest [hazard] is mid-air collisions. Any time we have a strike with a drone, at minimum we have to put down and assess that damage.“
Another safety concern is that HFD cannot communicate with recreational drones in the area — and that can cause confusion.
“Rogue drones in the area means our air assets, such as helicopters and our drones, cannot fly so cannot be operational and they cannot help, “ says Micheal Mendez, HFD Drone Operator.
Plus, HFD says, rogue drones can also delay the care for those in need of help or water drops to contain fires.
As Daniel Puterbaugh, FAA Hawaii adds, “Flying drones in restricted airspace is dangerous — and it can cost lives. My simple message to you: if you fly they can’t.”
The FAA warns drone operators that if you see emergency lights, or first responders in your camera screen, you are too close.
Violators of restricted air space can face fines totaling up to $37,000.
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