Close call between helicopter and drone has those in the aerial industry calling on pilots to follow safety regulations

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A video posted on Periscope of a close call between a drone and a helicopter has those in the aerial industry urging drone operators to follow all of the safety rules.

"For us, it's a safety issue," said JR Hott, owner of Panhandle Helicopters. "Number one, for the lives that we have on board the helicopters and, number two, obviously for the equipment and the business."

Hott says his helicopter pilots have had run ins with drones on more than one occasion.

"Our pilot reported seeing it flying right over the top of it," said Hott. "We can't have that. We are technically an airport so they're not supposed to be flying drones in this area."

Hott says most people don't realize how much damage a drone could do to a helicopter.

"The drone itself being a hard rigid object it could do quite a bit of damage to a helicopter either to its blades or worse to the windshield or the cockpit."

Jim Musser flies drones for a living. He owns Truly Virtual Tours a company that specializes in professional architectural photography and Google Street View photography. He says seeing people flying drones illegally is pretty common.

"You may never fly at night," said Musser. "So at Pier Park on 4th of July you had a couple drones flying around completely illegal."

Musser recommends new drone hobbyists get lots of practice in an open area away from any obstacles like trees, power lines, houses, and of course people.

"Most of the time it's innocence," Musser said. "It's just ignorance of the law. When I first started flying drones I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn't aware of the law and that's what this is really about. It's not about getting people in trouble it's about educating people."

According to FAA rules it's also illegal to fly over anyone's head unless you have permission from that person.

Hott says if a drone pilot does want to photograph the beach or near Pier Park, he urges the pilot to give him a call so they can coordinate and make sure everyone can fly safely.