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Andersen AFB gives tools to drone flyers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Murphy
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

Former pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger landed an Airbus A320 into a river after an inflight emergency on Jan. 15, 2009.

“The hero on the Hudson is what they call him,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Adam Rodgers, NCO in charge of installation security assigned to the 36th Security Forces Squadron. “Sullenberger, piloted an aircraft that was hit by a flock of birds, which ultimately ended with him landing the aircraft in the Hudson River. Think of what could happen with electronic and motorized birds. The same danger exists.”

Rodgers said that Unmanned Aircraft Systems flying in unauthorized airspace can cause serious damage to flying aircraft, and the aircrew members inside.

Andersen Air Force Base, along with Naval Base Guam, A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, and other federally owned property are no-fly zones for drones.

Rodgers said that the 36th SFS is not against hobbyists flying drones. He, along with his team hope to further educate the community on how to safely and responsibly fly personal drones.

“As security forces, our job is to enforce those rules, as well as reduce any threat that may happen,” Rodgers said. “Not all incursions are intended to be hostile. Somebody who just got a Christmas present and they want to go out and have fun could unknowingly violate Federal Aviation Administration regulations.”

Aside from safety issues, another concern for AAFB law enforcement are a drone’s video and photography capabilities. These capabilities could cause an informational security or operational security breach, or both. Many drones on today’s market have 4K image quality capabilities.

“Any photography that takes place in a restricted space is unauthorized,” Rodgers said. “Drones have video and photo capabilities that are no different than taking out a phone or camera and snapping pictures. This can cause an issue of malicious attempts to gather operational information of the base.”

Rodgers, and James Trefurt, chief of plans and programs assigned to the 36th SFS, stressed how easy it is for drone owners to learn FAA regulations.

“Most drones come with an app,” Trefurt said. “There are also additional apps that can give guidance on where unauthorized airspaces are in the area and ceiling limitations. The FAA has an app that is available to download, right now, through differing application stores. Using an authorized app is one of the easiest, and safest ways to steer clear of trouble.”

Regardless if you are living on base or off, Rodgers and Trefurt both agreed that when drone incursions occur, there is a possibility the UAS might not be returned to its owners.

“We don’t care if you are military or not, that doesn’t matter.” Rodgers said. “It might be even worse for you if you’re military because now you’re subject to UCMJ actions, and if you’re not military, you may still be subject to civilian actions, to include trespassing charges.”

Everyone can be a help with making sure Andersen’s airspace stays clear. If a drone is spotted on base, service members and base residents can call the Security Forces Law Enforcement Desk at 366-2910. When calling, give the operator the most visible description of the UAS that could include size, last known location, and which direction it was headed.

The FAA recently implemented The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST), and has made it a requirement for all recreational flyers to take and pass the test. This test is a requirement for UAS owners of aircraft systems weighing more than .55 lbs.

The FAA has also partnered with Aloft, to provide the B4UFLY, a free app on the Apple and Android markets. The app will let recreational flyers know whether it is safe to fly their drone or if they are in restricted airspace. Additional apps that flyers are known to use are Kittyhawk and Airmap, but these apps are not endorsed federally, and the Air Force has no affiliation with these apps.

Further questions and information can be found at www.faa.gov/uas.

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