Welcome to PhantomPilots.com

Sign up for a weekly email of the latest drone news & information

Helicopters under 400ft along the coast...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Cerone, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Cerone

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    68
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I've visited several spots along the southern California coast to fly my Phantom. According to FAA guidelines I can fly up to 400ft in these areas.

    In several locations I've noticed extremely low and fast flying helicopters. It's tough to eyeball the altitude but I would venture to guess some are as low as 200ft.

    I'd be interested to hear some opinions on this topic. Especially from anyone who knows anything about the coast guard, news helicopters, sightseeing helicopter tours, etc. Am I worrying about nothing, are they likely above 400ft? Or am I being wreckless to fly in these areas even if I don't see helicopters around?

    Here are some of the things I do to keep things safe:
    1. Scout the area for a while before flying
    2. Have a spotter to keep an eye out in the distance for me
     
  2. Cerone

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    68
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I found this article outlining the minimum altitude laws for helicopters:

    I'm curious how they define "open water" - it seems to me that helicopters along the coastline should be at least 500ft in altitude by these rules.
     
  3. SteveMann

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,977
    Likes Received:
    653
    Location:
    Westford, MA

    read the rest of it:
    Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft.If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—
    (1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and
    (2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.​
     
    Cerone likes this.
  4. Cerone

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    68
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    That portion wasn't in my original source but when I searched again I see the part you quoted on this page...
    14 CFR 91.119 - Minimum safe altitudes: General.

    So are you saying there are specifically prescribed routes/ altitudes by the FAA along the coast? If so, I'd love to get a better understanding of how far off the coast and at what altitudes helicopters may fly in.
     
  5. SteveMann

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,977
    Likes Received:
    653
    Location:
    Westford, MA
    Generally, helicopters may fly as low as they like as long as no one is endangered and they can safely land in an emergency. In my experience flying low altitude for photo runs in my Cessna, a "specifically prescribed route" may be as simple as a call to ATC asking permission to fly the coastline at 200ft for a banner tow or photos. The pilot will probably be given a "box" to stay in and any other aircraft approaching the box is warned of low-flying banner tow or photo operations.
     
  6. Cerone

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    68
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Great info, thank you. I suppose this means that helicopters could interfere with any Phantom flying just about anywhere, whether its over the coastline or not... so long as they were given ATC permission.
     
  7. redmoe

    redmoe Guest

    I had a banner tow plane over my house this weeked. He must have been at 300 ft tops. Glad I limit my altitude to 150 or below. They are moving pretty slow but you never know what is going to pop up (especially heli's).
     
  8. Reed L

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,273
    Likes Received:
    391
    Location:
    Alta, Ca.
    They will fly as low as they can for the best views. I've seen them 30 feet above the surf watching whales or whatever. When I hear them flying low, I listen and watch them. I've never had a drone in the air with a copter close but I scared the sht out of a pilot one day as he was flying next to me and I jumped out at him... Lol. He pulled the stick back and got pissed for a sec and then laughed with me. helicopter pilots will do what they can as low as they can and many are really exceptional pilots that will amaze you at just a few feet off the ground
     
  9. Othan1

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2015
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    62
    San Diego (Torrey Pines beach) have them flying. I just watch (listen) for them if I don't have a spotter. I also let the lifeguards know what I'm doing so at least I feel like I did something right.
     
  10. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Messages:
    4,929
    Likes Received:
    1,800
    Location:
    Lost Angeles
    Yes. Especially in SoCal, you have to assume helicopters can and will operate under 400ft AGL pretty regularly. Thus, you should keep an eye on helicopter before flying and have a long uninterrupted view of the sky and listen for them when flying. It is also important to limit your altitude to a reasonable height that will allow you the ability to descend to safety should a helicopter approach at low altitude.

    I make a habit of not flying very far above structures and buildings and I use them to descend down to so that I can be sure no helicopter will get too close.