A drone lobbying group warned operators and hobbyists to keep their drones out of the sky during Hurricane Florence and the storm’s aftermath.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics sent a message to its members Wednesday stressing that given predictions for Hurricane Florence, which may dump as much as 40 inches of rain along the East Coast, “it is of the utmost importance that all UAS operators refrain from flight.”
“As an AMA member, you know to stay grounded, but we urge you to spread the word to other UAS operators who may not know that flight before, during and after the storm can be dangerous,” the AMA said.
Following the storm, the group added, “important Hurricane Florence emergency response and relief efforts will be underway” thus “all UAS operators should check if there is an active Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in their area.”
“Furthermore, although post-storm conditions may seem clear to fly, you must not interfere with any of these crucial operations. UAS can be a helpful tool during disaster relief, but unless you are working directly with relief efforts, you must stay clear and allow the professionals to do their vital work,” the message continued.
“It’s also important to note that unauthorized UAS operators may be subject to significant fines if they interfere with emergency response and relief operations. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state or local laws and ordinances, even if a TFR is not in place.”
Hurricane Florence began to come onshore this evening in North Carolina as a large, slow-moving Category 2 storm expected to produce catastrophic flooding.
While drones operated by official agencies have helped in natural disasters such as fighting wildfires, unauthorized UAS buzzing around the area can bring operations to a standstill. “If you own a drone, DO NOT fly near or over a wildfire,” FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell warned last month as crews battled blazes in the West. “It’s against the law, and firefighting aircraft could be grounded, disrupting time-critical firefighting efforts. Your hobby is not worth another person’s life.”