Helicopters participating in the disaster response efforts surrounding severe flooding in Oklahoma are having trouble with illegal unmanned aircraft system (UAS/drone) operations interfering with their flights. According to Tulsa Fire Department spokesperson Andrew Little, emergency response personnel encountered approximately 30 drones flying illegally on Wednesday alone. Little emphasized that emergency response helicopters can’t operate when drones have been sighted in the area due to the potential for an accident.
“We have a much higher than normal rate of low flying helicopters delivering payloads or search and rescue,” the Tulsa Police Department said in a statement. “If a UAS is flying in the area they are at tremendous risk.” In a video—shown below—posted on Facebook by the Tulsa Police department, police and fire department personnel requested that UAS operators stay clear of flood areas and fly in accordance with FAA regulations.
At least 400 homes have been evacuated and six people killed this week due to the flooding and associated storms. All of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are under a state of emergency. Arkansas and Louisiana are also experiencing record-breaking flooding.