20 Dec 2017

Drone Operator Responsible in Collision

A drone collided with a US Army helicopter in September of this year. Last Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the operator of the drone was at fault.

FakeStocker / Shutterstock.com

The incident took p[ace on 21 September 2017 near Hoffman Island, New York. A DJI Phantom 4 sUAS collided with a US Army Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter at an altitude of approximately 300 feet. Fortunately the helicopter was able to land safely, while the drone was destroyed. On one of the four main rotor blades of the helicopter was found a one and half inch dent, as well as parts of the drone finding themselves lodged in the engine oil cooler fan of the helicopter.

The drone operator was flying well beyond visual range and was found to have insufficient knowledge of the regulations surrounding UAS. Until the NTSB contacted him, he was unaware of the collision, as well as the temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time due to presidential travel and a UN General Assembly Session. The helicopter was authorised to fly in the area and, being over water and not near any other vessels, was flying at the correct altitude. sUAS pilots are responsible at all times to comply with FAA airspace restrictions and it has been determined that sole reliance on advisory functions of a non-certified app is not sufficient to ensure that correct airspace information is obtained. 

He did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate and was intentionally flying his drone at a distance of 2.5 miles away from his person, well beyond visual range. The Academy of Model Aircraft (AMA) has called on the FAA to hold the rogue operator accountable, due to their violation of Part 107. Section 336 provides a recreational alternative to Part 107 for responsible model aviation, but the drone operator involved in this incident was not a Section 336 operator and should be held to account.

References:    NTSB       DroneLife 


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