Man rescued from tree after failed attempt to rescue his drone

Jeff Bobo • Feb 26, 2018 at 7:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A drone pilot who tried to rescue his aircraft when it got stuck at the top of a tree at Rogersville’s Crockett Creek Park Saturday evening had to be rescued from the tree himself when he got stuck about 40 feet up.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday, the man — who luckily had his phone in his pocket at the time — called Rogersville emergency dispatch from about 40 feet up in the tree to report that he'd climbed about halfway to the top and couldn't get back down.

Trees are probably the drone’s greatest nemesis. In 2013, Crockett Creek Park was recognized by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency as a State Arboretum — a botanical garden containing a variety of protected trees that is used for educational purposes.

The first firefighters on the scene determined that a ladder truck was needed to get the drone pilot down.

The ladder truck arrived at 8:18 p.m., and the man was on the ground by 8:40 p.m.

His identity wasn't released, but RFD firefighter Lee Sexton said the man wasn't injured.

"We had to trim some limbs to get the ladder up to him," Sexton said. "He was approximately 40-45 feet up. As far as I know, the drone is still there. We didn't get it down. Firefighter Kelsie Price went up and got him down, and Michael Bradley went up to assist."

Rogersville Alderman Mark DeWitte is an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) licensed drone pilot, and although he wasn't involved in Saturday's rescue, he's very familiar with drone flying safety tips and regulations.

"Drones, or ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems’, are becoming more and more popular today," DeWitte said. "They range from small toys to large professional systems and are covered by certain FAA rules and regulations. These rules vary whether the flight is for a recreational purpose or for a commercial purpose."

In general, however, anyone flying a drone should:

• Fly at or below 400 feet above the ground.

• Always fly within line-of-sight, if you can’t see it, bring it in.

• Stay away from airports.

• Stay away from airplanes – they have the right of way in the air.

• Do not fly over people.

• Do not fly over or close to sports events or stadiums.

• Do not fly near emergency situations such as car crashes or building fires

• Do not fly under the influence.

• Be aware of controlled airspace.

DeWitte noted that flying a commercial drone mission at night is not permitted unless a waiver has been granted by the FAA.

"Flying for hobby at night is at best a risky proposition and should only be attempted in open areas where there are no obstructions and the drone is lit well enough for the operator to see it at all times," DeWitte said. "The best advice is to practice, know the capabilities and controls of your drone, and know the regulations. When in doubt, ask someone who has experience. Most experienced operators are willing to help in any way they can."

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