FBI investigating illegal drone flying at 4,000 feet near Charlotte’s airport

North Carolina news

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — The FBI is looking for a drone pilot who has been flying near a flight path to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“They’re the cool new thing, fun technology, you can take great photos, have fun with your kids, but there’s a lot of responsibility,” said FBI Public Information Officer Shelley Lynch.

In the last month and a half, commercial pilots have reported seeing drones five times in the air in the Fort Mill area.

“We’re talking about an international airport where thousands of flights go in and out every day,” Lynch said, “And to have a report of a drone flying at such a high altitude near this airport is extremely concerning.”

Commercial drones are not allowed to fly above 400 feet, but this drone was flying 4,000 feet – that’s like the difference between one football field and 13.

“Oh, that’s incredible!” said Joe Valasquez, owner of DroneScape. “4,000 feet is in the airspace that aircraft are landing! Completely irresponsible,” he said.

The FAA has airspace restrictions; flying near airports is a big “no, no.”

There’s also a reason for the rules on altitude.

“So 400 feet gets you below the helicopter,” Valasquez said, “4,000 feet is extremely dangerous, because at 4,000 feet in the neighborhood of Charlotte Douglas Airport planes are coming in for a landing.”

The FBI says what this drone pilot is doing is very concerning and could be dangerous to pilots and their passengers.

“We just don’t want to have them do anything other than focus on the job they have at hand, which is to land that plane safely,” Lynch SAID.

The US Attorney’s Office would determine if they’re going to charge the person. The FBI just wants to speak with the drone pilot, and educate him or her on drone safety. They’re also hoping the violation will serve as a warning to anyone who has a drone on their Christmas list this year.

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