Spectrum Health West Michigan

Spectrum Health Aero Med Avoids Collision with Drone, Calls for Operator Awareness

September 17, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Sept. 17, 2020 – Recently, a Spectrum Health Aero Med helicopter had a near collision with a drone while landing at Butterworth Hospital. The drone was hovering over the rooftop landing site when the aircraft landed. The device dropped low enough to be captured by an Aero Med crew member. The owner is unknown.

Aero Med reported the incident to the local air traffic control and filed a report with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The drone captured was a Mavic Mini Ultra Light 249g.

Aero Med and North Flight Aero Med conduct approximately 1000 landings annually at the Butterworth Hospital helistop, primarily transporting injured and sick patients. This incident is the closest encounter an Aero Med aircraft has had with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The helicopter was landing to pick up a medical team.

“Our transport crew was fortunate that this drone did not hit our aircraft,” said Tiffany Obetts, Aero Med director. “This drone was in the area illegally and a collision could have been devastating. Anyone who operates a drone has to do it safely and understand and obey no fly zones.”

FAA regulations state that when emergency aircraft are arriving, departing or otherwise occupying any airport, heliport, helistop or any emergency landing zone, UAV are prohibited from operating within a 5-mile radius of these sites.

According to the American Association of Air Medical Services, the ability of piloted aircraft to see small UAVs in ample time to avoid them cannot be presumed.  They are simply too small, are often travelling too fast and are virtually invisible.  Responsibility to see and avoid aircraft must rest with UAV operators.

Anyone with information about this drone is asked to contact the local FAA office at 616.954.6657. More information about flying drones is available from the FAA. , https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/



Ellen Bristol
Media Relations Manager
Office: 616.391.4399
Mobile: 616.581.6474
Email: ellen.bristol@spectrumhealth.org