The National Transportation Safety Board determined Thursday the operator of a drone that collided with an U.S. Army helicopter failed to see and avoid the helicopter because he was intentionally flying the drone out of visual range and did not have adequate knowledge of regulations and safe operating practices.
This Christmas, we expect a record-number of drones sales and more drone accidents from unlicensed, unknowing pilots. A cohesive and easily accessible governance framework is needed to bridge the drone knowledge gap and prevent accidents like these from happening.
This event took place September 21, 2017 when a DJI Phantom 4 collided with the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The Chinese manufactured aircraft, representative of nearly 70% of all drones, travelled 2.5 miles away from the pilot and during twilight hours – both violations of federal regulation, and though the collision occurred under the permitted 400 FT AGL, the pilot had earlier flown well above the legal limit. The NTSB determined that the pilots were at fault, not the technology; identifying the direct causes as a failure to “monitor other aircraft” and a failure in “the use of policy/procedure.” Causal factors leading to these failures were “a lack of knowledge of procedures… and regulatory requirements.”
The incident took place near Hoffman Island, New York. The helicopter landed safely; the drone was destroyed. A 1 1/2 – inch dent was found on the leading edge of one of the helicopter’s four main rotor blades and parts of the drone were found lodged in the helicopter’s engine oil cooler fan.
The drone operator was unaware of the collision until an NTSB investigator contacted him. The operator was also not aware of temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time because of presidential travel and a United Nations General Assembly session. He was flying recreationally and did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate.
The full investigative report is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xnnkh