Two unauthorized drones seen flying at NAS Oceana

A map of airspace around Naval Air Station Oceana.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two unauthorized drones seen flying at Naval Air Station Oceana on Thursday have raised safety concerns.

Officials said Navy personnel saw a white quad-copter — or unmanned aircraft system (UAS) — flying near the aircraft hangars Thursday morning.

A pilot flying an F/A-18 Hornet later saw a black quad-copter in the landing pattern at Oceana.

Leadership at Oceana reminds citizens that flying drones in unauthorized air space is illegal, and puts air crew and residents at risk.

“UAS are capable of causing significant damage to aircraft in the event of a mid-air collision,” Captain Rich Meadows, commanding officer at NAS Oceana, stated on Thursday.

John Vernon is the chief technology officer for DroneUP, a locally-based app to support the safe use of drones.

“It’s the last thing that the drone community needs right now,” he said of the drone activity reported by the Navy. “There’s plenty of very safe operators out there that make a living doing this as well, and to have people go off and operate unsafely, to not verify their surroundings, to do things that are clearly against the law, puts everybody at risk and creates opportunities for a lot of legislations and fines that don’t help the community in any way.”

There are plenty of places for drone operators to learn the rules, as the equipment becomes more accessible, he said.

“We’ve talked to lots of aircraft pilots that have said they used to be very fearful of bird strikes and now they’re just as much, if not more fearful, of drone strikes, and so it’s really incumbent on the drone community and the operators to ensure that everyone around them is flying safely,” Vernon said.

Operators of unauthorized drones can be subject to fines and criminal charges, as well as possible jail time.

Officials said there are prohibitions against flying commercial or recreational drones within five miles of NAS Oceana — and two miles of Naval Auxiliary Landing Field (NALF) Fentress in Chesapeake.

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