Officials fear flying drone could cause planes to crash

If you’re wanting to fly an unmanned aircraft system, also known as drones, of any size, for any reason, you’re going to have to make sure you do it away from Freeman Municipal Airport.

The Seymour Airport Authority recently turned down a local man’s request to fly a drone for recreational purposes within the airport’s 5 miles of protected airspace.

Timothy Duttlinger first visited airport manager Don Furlow to seek permission to fly his small “toy” drone and make a video using the technology as a fun activity to do with his son.

He said he planned to fly the drone in a field near his apartment on Miller Lane on the south side of Seymour.

On Monday night, Duttlinger went before the airport board and showed them his DJI Mavic drone, which weighs less than two pounds, and described how it operated.

After doing some research on his own, Duttlinger said he felt he was doing the right thing by seeking special permission and letting the authority know what he wanted to do.

The drone can fly a distance of around four miles, but Duttlinger said he wasn’t sure how high it could go.

Airport Authority board President Brian Thompson said the Federal Aviation Administration is still working on how to control recreational use of drones to ensure safety.

In 2016, the FAA issued Part 107 regulations on flying small unmanned aircraft for commercial uses.

Those rules state people flying drones must keep them in sight at all times and cannot fly them higher than 400 feet or within five miles of an airport without permission. They also must have a remote pilot certification.

All drones, both commercial and hobby, must be registered with the FAA.

Thompson said he didn’t feel comfortable approving Duttlinger’s request at this time.

“My concern is that we are overstepping FAA rules by saying it’s OK,” Thompson said. “I’m not sure how wise that is for us to do at this point. The FAA is working on tweaking these rules and making them maybe different for recreational use.”

Thompson said he also is worried that people flying drones for fun don’t know or understand the concept of protected airspace and the layout of the airport.

Even a small drone could cause damage to an airplane and cause it to crash, he said.

“I just have concerns of the safety of us all being this close to an airport,” he said. “Now in the country, on the other side of Madden Hill, you can do whatever. There are places you can go. It’s not that hard to get five miles away from the airport, but I feel we have to put this cloak of protection around the airport.”

Authority board member Scott Davis suggested Duttlinger go to the Jackson County Fairgrounds parking lot or the field between the fairgrounds and the Jackson County Jail to fly his drone.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.