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HealthNet wary of drones flown near aircraft

Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo by Kenny Kemp A HealthNet helicopter is parked at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve earlier this year.
Charleston Gazette-Mail file photo by Kenny Kemp
A HealthNet helicopter is parked at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve earlier this year.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Just before Christmas, the Federal Aviation Administration unveiled the online registration process for people who own drones.

Jeff White, director of safety for HealthNet, thinks that is good timing. Over the past year or so, HealthNet helicopters have had several close calls with unmanned drones, he said.

In Morgantown, people were flying their drones over the helipad at Ruby Memorial Hospital. In Charleston, a drone was between 150 and 300 feet from a HealthNet helicopter near Yeager Bridge as the helicopter was trying to leave CAMC General Hospital.

“If it hits the aircraft, it could absolutely crash the aircraft,” White said. “We consider them all close calls.”

White wants to raise awareness of the FAA registration process, as well as safety guidelines, for those who found drones under their Christmas trees. He also wants to encourage drone owners to never fly near emergency responders.

Asked how registration improves safety, Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said that drone operators are presented with safety information when they register…

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