Drones are small, quick and nimble and their cameras can take viewers places that would ordinarily be out of their reach and some other places they should not go. A one-time trip inside a C-130 engine, for example.
Keesler Air Force Base officials are trying to prevent that sort of entanglement with a campaign aimed at educating the public that the AFB environs is off limits to the small unmanned craft without prior approval from Keesler.
“One of the main concerns going on in aviation, whether it be FAA or DoD, is anyone can buy one of these type of aircraft,” said Tech Sgt. Blaine Caudill, the 81st Operations Squadron Support Flight assistant chief controller. “The main issue we’re having, not here, but the United States in general, is the fact that when they purchase these aircraft, they’re not following the proper steps.”
He recommends going to FAA site, http://federaldroneregistration.com, and register the craft. Then, he said, you should read the “know before you fly section” and download the free Before You Fly app for a smart phone. That will tell you where you can and can’t fly drones.
Keesler, for example, has a temporary flight restriction from the ground to 400 feet above the base.
“At no time should you be flying your (drone) over Keesler,” he said. In a five-mile radius around Keesler, you have to request permission from the base to fly, he said. To do that, email the request to email@example.com.
So far, a drone has not caused a problem at Keesler, but Capt. Jacob McCutcheon, pilot with the 815th Airlift Squadron, in his job as a reservist flying aircraft out of Los Angeles airports, said he has seen several drones in the vicinity of LAX.
“We do a lot of low-level flying,” he said of his job as a C-130 pilot. “So we actually encounter that same airspace the drones could be operating in. We do our best to avoid (a drone). We expect a drone operator to see a large aircraft coming in their vicinity because they have to follow the rules and maintain a line of sight with their drone. We expect them to either bring that drone to the ground or move it out of our path.”
Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Lambert, 81st Security Forces Squadron, said Keesler is ready to deal with drones regardless of whether they just simply accidentally flew out of bounds or they are trying to attack the base.
He said, “The Air Force is capable of detecting and grounding these systems as appropriate if they present a threat to us.”