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Drones posing hazards for Washington State Ferries

Washington State Ferries officials said in recent months they've seen more than 20 incidents of people flying drones too close to ferries, and even passengers launching drones from the decks of vessels. (Photo: KOMO Drone 4)

SEATTLE - Getting a sky-high drone perspective of our state ferries is becoming all too popular. But, it's also problematic and dangerous when drone pilots fly too close to the vessels.

22 Washington State ferry boats push through the pristine waters of Puget Sound every day. There’s almost always a picture perfect view. So much so that the ferry system has seen jump in drone usage around their vessels.

"Anytime you have two moving vehicles within close proximity of each other, something can go wrong pretty quickly," said Ian Sterling, a Washington State Ferries (WSF) spokesperson.

In recent months, WSF said they've seen more than 20 incidents of people flying drones too close to ferries, and even passengers launching drones from the decks of vessels.

“What we don’t want them to do is be a navigational hazard,” said Sterling. “Ferry boat captains have enough to worry about with boats out on Puget Sound, container ships, floating logs and everything else.”

WSF is asking recreational drone pilots to keep their unmanned aircraft systems at least 500 feet away from vessels. If you're a commercial pilot and plan to fly around state ferries, the agency asks that you give a courtesy call to the customer service line and to let them know you’ll be flying.

"We are just seeing the prolific use of these everywhere so, over water over land, and what we really need people to know is what the regulations are for their flying,' said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.

For recreational users the Federal Aviation Administration has some important rules that include:

  • Never fly near other aircraft
  • Don't fly over people
  • Keep the drone within the pilot's visual line of sight
  • Register the drone if it weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds
  • Notify airports and air traffic control towers if you want to fly within five miles of the airport

All drone pilots must operate according to law.

"They need to know what they are doing could have a detrimental impact on something they don’t even realize is going on,” said Mosley.

Bottom line know the rules before inadvertently putting other in harms way.

If you are caught not following the rules, whether you're a commercial or recreational drone pilot, you could be issued of fine in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.




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