Tragedy averted after drone flies through helicopter's path

Tragedy averted after drone flies through helicopter's path
A routine medical flight to Dallas nearly missed being hit by someone's drone.

Dallas police are investigating after a drone flew into the path of a UT Health Tyler helicopter.
It happened Sunday night around 7 p.m. near Fair Park in Southeast Dallas.
"Get out of the way!" helicopter pilot Clint Burleson says was his first thought as he watched an unidentified drone fly toward his engine.

"At its closest point, as we turned and passed it, it was 20, 30 feet," Burleson says.

UT Health emergency pilot Clint Burleson had just lifted off after transporting a critically injured patient to UT Southwestern hospital in Dallas, when he noticed a 3-foot, bright orange drone flying towards him.

"This is the first time I have ever got to a drone, close enough that I could see it, as small as that aircraft is," Burleson says.

An average recreational drone is capable of flying between 1,000-2,000 feet in the air and the drone in question was flying 1,500 feet in the air, the same height as the Air 1 helicopter.

FAA regulations say drones should not fly above 400 feet; if they go any higher than that, they are interfering with national airspace.

"Besides major damage to the aircraft, you’re talking about loss of life, if it was to strike the rotors, or strike the tail rotors, or go through the windscreen and hit the pilot. It would not have only affected the aircraft and the crew, it would have affected the people on the ground," Chief flight nurse Michael Lawyer says.

Lawyer says the Dallas police helicopter unit is now investigating the incident, and if the perpetrator is caught, he or she could face civil fines.
A UT Health Tyler spokesperson said there are no exterior cameras on air one.