Yesterday I was flying a mapping misson at 325 AGL and had my 2nd scare, in the 15 or so months that I have been mapping, from a low flying helicopter. This was in a suburban area, Class E Airspace (no LAANC clearance required - controlled airspace floor 700 AGL).

I was monitoring and keeping a close watch, to be honest a better watch than I sometimes have. He came busting over the treetops at what looked like about 250 AGL at maybe 70 or 80 knots. I think he was a little outside of my geofence but close enough that it was hard to be certain. If things had been different, I really wouldn’t have had much time to do anything short of chop the power and watch the drone fall to earth.
Fortunately, he was not in the same quadrant as the drone at the time and I was able to keep a close eye and continue the mission. Still, it could have been different.

If he had been on a collision course and I had been lax or slow to recognize the situation, I honestly don’t know if there is much I could have done about it. Has anyone else had this experience? If I understand correctly, I thought manned aircraft were supposed to maintain at least 500’ separation from any person? Given the area he was flying over I don’t see how this was possible. I was on a construction site but all around was subdivisions and shopping centers. He was not approaching for a landing, he was just cruising from point to point.

I’m not complaining (well, maybe a little) and I fully understand that the FAA says that is our responsibility to avoid manned aircraft. But the implementation of a 400’ ceiling and LAANC clearly sends a message that the low altitude belongs to us. Are these helicopters legal? Do they not read the news? It would seem to me that a responsible pilot would get the message and STAY OFF THE DECK. Especially in populated areas. It’s like the bicycle riders on busy highways that complain about wreckless drivers almost putting them in the hospital. The bad drivers may be wrong but it doesn’t change the physics: if they hit you, you are going to lose.

Keep your eyes up and stay safe,



I too have seen aircraft fly over a mapping site at a low altitude, around 175 AGL. Luckily my P4P was not yet in the air. This was at the top of a ridge and I think the pilot was having fun skimming close to the tree tops in his Cessna. I called the closest airport to report this and asked them to track the plane so if it landed at their airfield they could talk to the pilot and let him know that drones are now flying up to 400 AGL. I never heard back but at least the controller knows that we need to work together in order to ensure aircraft safety. Drones are still so new that many pilots are still unaware that they can pose a hazard when they fly illegally low. They may not get caught by the authorities but that will be of no help if they collide with a legally operated drone.


From what I have read this is illegal unless over water or in emergency in which they have ROW. I’ve had two instances, one with a single engine airplane. If I ever have my wits about me, which probably won’t happen in an instance like this, I would snap a picture and report their tail number.

The “sparsely populated” area tag is going to have to change. My bet is that when the drone industry generates enough revenue we will gain a little leverage.