Thursday, July 03, 2014

Drone prompts Federal Aviation Administration alert at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM), Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- An Alabama man said Wednesday that he is keeping his drone aircraft closer to the ground after a high-altitude flight prompted a warning to pilots at Birmingham's airport. 

Michael Mayhew posted a video on YouTube in late May showing a drone flight that soared thousands of feet off the ground north of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The aircraft flew so high homes appear as specks on the ground.

The video doesn't show any airplanes nearby during the flight, but pilots later received an automated warning from the Federal Aviation Administration about unauthorized drones near a homing beacon.

The problem is that the drone was in airport airspace, and FAA rules limit the altitude of such flights.

Mayhew, in an interview conducted by email, said a user on an Internet forum reported him after seeing flight statistics online. One video by Mayhew says a drone reached an altitude of more than 3,600 feet.

"The local FAA office contacted me via certified letter. I responded by phone and had a good conversation with the front-line manager," he said.

In a statement, the FAA said it had investigated a report that an unidentified drone operator flew an unmanned aircraft up to an altitude of 4,200 feet northwest of the airport.

"The FAA spoke to the operator who agreed to fly the unmanned aircraft below 400 feet, which is the maximum altitude for model aircraft flights, according to FAA guidance," the agency said.

Mayhew said he is now limiting the altitude of his drone flights.

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