Washoe County UH-H1 helicopter during water drop

Any such sighting automatically suspends all aerial firefighting operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a near-miss between a hobby drone and a sheriff’s helicopter in Reno during an aerial attack on a wind-whipped brush fire that was threatening dozens of homes on the edge of the Sierra.

The HH-1H Huey had just completed a final water drop about 8 p.m. Wednesday when Doug Russell, a Washoe County sheriff’s deputy who is the chief pilot of the regional law enforcement helicopter said his co-pilot spotted the drone passing about 50 feet beneath the helicopter’s nose.

“We were about 400 feet off the ground and it went zipping right underneath us. It was my first close encounter of the drone kind,” he told The Associated Press. 

“It really is a life-and-death manner,” he says. “I can tell you that catching a drone in your face is not going to work out well for you when it’s going 90 miles an hour. The bottom line is that drone can have a catastrophic impact on any aircraft that it hits.”

Any such sighting automatically suspends all aerial firefighting operations.

Russell said he pulled up, circling, then followed the drone and directed deputies on the ground to its operators in a city park not far from the fire on the edge of southwest Reno.

Washoe County sheriff’s spokesman Bob Harmon said they reported the “near-miss” to the FAA after they warned the “two people who appeared to be hobbyists” about the dangers but issued no citations.

“It’s a new and emerging technology and hobby. At this point it’s better to try to educate than arrest,” Harmon said.

A surprising tolerant response considering the danger to one of their own. Now once again let’s see what the FAA does. Inquiring minds want to know if the drone owner was registered and the drone was marked.

read more at mercurynews.com

hear an interview with the pilot on K-UNR

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