11:24 AM

Drone Dangers

Why This Year's Hot Christmas Gift Could Delay Care of Patients

When a child is in need of immediate medical attention, every moment counts. That's why the Teddy Bear Transport team at Cook Children's Medical Center works around the clock, ready to respond as soon as a call comes in. So when a medical helicopter could not lift off from Cook Children's helipad recently, it was more than just alarming to the Teddy Bear team.

"There was a drone flying above Thistle Hill next door," said Debbie Boudreaux, director of Transport at Cook Children's. "It could have been bad if the pilot had not seen it."

The helicopter, which was on its way to pick up a patient, had to sit in place until the drone's operator could be located. The result: the patient had to wait 20 extra minutes for help to arrive.

"These kids need medical attention, and they need it rather fast," said pilot Gary Colecchi, who flies for Teddy Bear Transport. "This could mean the difference between life and death."

Experts from the Consumer Electronics Association predict more than 700,000 drones will be wrapped under Christmas trees this holiday season. But with the surge in popularity seems to be a lack of education about where and when drones are ok to be flown.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), hobby and recreational drone users should follow these guidelines:

  • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
  • Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport (including hospital helicopter pads)
  • Don't fly near people or stadiums
  • Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
  • Don't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

"Drones are here to stay, we know that, but we want to make sure people know the dangers they pose to medical response," said Colecchi. "Our top priority is getting these children the care they need, safely and quickly."

If you plan to fly a drone, Cook Children's asks you know the recommendations before you fly. You can find them here.

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