Improper use of lasers & drones could cost you big with the federal government

Local News

DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — How much harm can one little laser pointer do? Actually a lot.

On Nov. 12, 2019, Fort Rucker reported that a laser incident took place near one of its airfields.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, many high-powered lasers can distract or temporally blind pilots potentially putting the lives of many passengers at risk of crashing.

“The potential if it does happen, the severity of what it could cause,” Randy Prine of Randy’s Aerial Photography said. “You’re talking loss of life, property damage, I mean it can be very severe if it did happen.”

But it’s not just lasers that can cause pilots issues.

Fort Rucker reported on Jan. 15, 2020, that a drone was approaching a stagefield. As of late, no such incidents have happened in Dothan as of late.

“We don’t have any of those recent events here in this area, thank goodness,” Dothan Regional Airport Director Adam Hartzog said. “They have been happening at other airports.”

Drone operators are limited to 400 feet altitude, but some of the newer drones can go as high as 2,000, which could cause an accident.

“The FAA says that any incident that is caused by a drone,” Prine said. “The drone operator is held reliable for it, and it’s penalties that can vary anywhere for $20,000 on up to $320,000.”

Whether you’re a new drone pilot or have years of experience, rules and safety tips exist to help you fly safely in the national airspace.

“If you’re within five miles of an airport, you’re not supposed to fly period unless you have a waiver from that airport letting them know that you’re going to be in that area and that controlled airspace,” Prine said. “Then they’ll make arrangements to make sure there’s no manned aircraft in that area where you’re going to be flying.”

A federal law passed in 2012 made pointing a laser towards an aircraft punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000.

Additionally, you are subject to an $11,000 civil penalty.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation may offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.

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