Drone practice (copy)

Jeff Duncan of Portage lands his drone about a quarter-mile from the Historic Indian Agency House in July 2018. It is important for drone owners to fly their craft responsibly.

We understand the appeal of owning a drone with a camera attached. We’ve seen the unique perspectives they can deliver through the photographs shot from high above.

But it’s important to remember to enjoy them responsibly, to know when and where drones are not only unwelcome, but dangerous.

It was a “chaotic” scene July 18 in the town of Dover after a crash involving a minivan and a pickup truck left several people injured.

Rescuers not only had to deal with the challenges at the crash site, which included extricating a patient from the wreckage, but helicopters arriving and leaving the scene had to contend with a drone flying above the crash scene.

Two of the crash victims were taken by Flight for Life helicopters to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa and one was taken to Froedtert by a ground ambulance, sheriff’s and fire officials said.

During the Flight for Life transport, with one helicopter on the ground and another approaching, first responders noticed something flying above them, which Vrchota said was determined to be a drone.

“At that time the final helicopter was making its approach to touch down at the landing zone,” Vrchota said.

Vrchota relayed a message about the drone flying in the area to the helicopter pilot, adding that he doesn’t know how long the drone was flying above the scene.

“My main concern was getting the patients out as quickly and safely as we could and then getting them to the hospital,” Vrchota said.

Vrchota said the situation could have been made a lot worse if the drone collided with the helicopter or lost power and fell into the scene.

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“Our function as EMS, fire and law enforcement is to keep everybody safe on scene,” Vrchota said.

“To have our focus turned to something that could definitely endanger all the people on the ground … it took your main focus off of patient care.”

The next day, two brothers, ages 24 and 19 and from the town of Burlington, turned themselves in to Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies and said they were the pilots and owners of the drone that had flown in the area.

Both were cooperating with the investigation, the sheriff’s office reported.

Tammy Chatman, public information officer for Flight for Life, which is based in Waukesha, said in a Racine Journal Times report that a big rule in aviation is “see and avoid.”

“We can’t see the drones, especially at night,” Chatman said. “We can’t avoid what we cannot see.”

Chatman said there were several radio frequencies in use at the scene that could have interfered with the drone’s function, or the drone’s signal could have interfered with the radio frequencies; the drone could have lost power and fell onto someone at the scene or it could have collided with the helicopter and could have created a much larger scene.

The young men piloting the drone that night turned themselves in. That was the right thing to do.

But we want all drone operators to avoid having to report to their local sheriff or police department. The way to do that is to heed the advice of Tammy Chatman:

“The fact is, when you put your drone in the air you are a pilot, and you need to act accordingly.”


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