WGXA On Your Side: Drone Danger

Drone Danger / Perry Smith (WGXA)

Our WGXA On Your Side Team has discovered dozens of reported drone violations across Georgia.

This includes some in Middle Georgia.

The FAA said these reported violations could even put plane or jet passengers at risk.

Drones are everywhere these days.

Kids and adults have them.

And more and more companies are using them.

But if they're used incorrectly, they can be dangerous.

When local Realtor Joanna “Jo Jo” Jones wants a different perspective, she takes to the air.

“People can look at it, they can see the location, they can see what's around it, what proximity they are to things, how the roof looks, it truly is...has changed real estate” she says.

But she also knows the value of using a pro for drone work.

“You really do need a professional, or otherwise your drone is going to get stuck up in a tree, it could hit a tree, you could kill somebody. You just don't know what's out there. These guys are licensed. They know what they're doing.”

Chris Dunn is one of the guys she's talking about. He is a professional and licensed drone pilot who shoots videos.

“Some people, if they take off with a drone not knowing they're in airspace and they're flying over crowds or they aren't experienced and they're just a hobbyist and something small can go wrong and it’s just a disaster,” Dunn explains.

He and his partner with Georgia Drone Pros went through countless hours of training, practice, and testing. They work as a team for increased safety.

Dunn says getting licensed covers a lot.

“We go over thousands of questions, all kinds of scenarios, the clouds the weather, being a pilot, how planes land on airports, how to call into air traffic control to notify, ‘We're about to take off, we're about to fly 200 feet for 20 minutes.’”

They say they stick to the rules. Their drone, like many of the newer ones, has a computer chip to make sure it also follows the rules too.

“There's also software embedded into the drones so they can't take off in certain locations in the five-mile zone, it also can't get over 400 feet."

But not everyone is so careful about the regulations.

Our WGXA News On Your Side Team investigation found four reported drone violations in Middle Georgia. They were made to the Federal Aviation Administration during the past 30 months.

Nov. 21, 2014: A pilot flying near the Medical Center Navicent Health in Macon reported a drone sighting at 2,500 feet.

April 11, 2015: A commercial pilot reported a bright cylindrical object flash by his window in Jasper County as he approached Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson airport. The flight was at 12,000 feet. That's 30 times higher than the 400 foot legal cap for a drone.

Aug. 24, 2015: Another commercial jet on approach to Hartsfield in Atlanta reported a sighting in Butts County at 9,500 feet.

Nov. 17, 2016: A plane approaching Robins Air Force Base airport reported sighting a lighted drone about 30 feet above him just over in Bleckley County. He was flying at 3,000 feet when it happened.

Dunn says used correctly drones are a valuable tool. But he says it's important for each drone owner to do their homework.

“It's knowing the laws and the rules and flying safe."

He says it also takes a lot of practice.

“Even the cheap ones are 100, 300 bucks. They can still crash easily, some of them can fly pretty easily inside, but once you add a little wind or the trees or anything in the area it's going to come down."

Dunn says it is possible for someone who is good with electronics to defeat the limitations programmed into the chips.

But those chips are there to help keep you out of trouble.

If you violate airspace rules, you can have your drone confiscated or even face state or federal charges.

For more information on FAA Drone Regulations, click here.

For Drone Basics from the FAA, click here.

For the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Sightings Report Database, click here.

For FAA Drone Flight Restrictions, click here.

More information on Georgia Drone Pros can be found here.

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