The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating a collision between a DJI Phantom 4 drone and a US Army Helicopter.

NTSB Investigate DJI Phantom Drone Collision With US Army Helicopter

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating a collision between a DJI Phantom 4 drone and a US Army Helicopter, the impact caused damaged to one the rotor blades, window frame and transmission deck.

The incident occurred on September 21st at approximately 7:20 p.m, east of Staten Island in the USA. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the helicopter was flying security for a United Nations meeting. The NTSB press release distributed yesterday describes the incident and subsequent investigation.

“WASHINGTON — (Oct. 5, 2017) The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Sept. 21 collision between a civilian drone and an Army UH-60 helicopter east of Staten Island, New York.”

Only a single photo of the impact to the helicopter is provided within the press release, illustrating the damage incurred to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter rotor blade:

Inflight collision of UAS (Phantom 4) and helicopter.
Inflight collision of UAS (Phantom 4) and helicopter – image courtesy of NTSB.

An additional second photo, hosted on the NTSB server but not revealed within the press release, also shows the detached/broken arm of a DJI Phantom 4 drone. The second photo lacks the timestamp present in the first photo and therefore was most likely photographed separately.

“A motor and arm from a small drone, identified as a DJI Phantom 4, were recovered from the helicopter.”

From the description given in the press release, the arm of the DJI Phantom 4 drone managed to attach itself to the aircraft, from where it was recovered.

The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating a collision between a DJI Phantom 4 drone and a US Army Helicopter.
The detached arm of a DJI Phantom 4 drone, recovered following a crash with a US army helicopter – image courtesy of NTSB.

One Facebook commenter stated the following:

“…the claim was that the drone first hit the side of the Blackhawk near the window and bounced upward into the rotor and the drone’s “arm” was discovered the next day lodged in the engine. All “seen” by the crew chief. I spoke to the individual who took the photos minutes after he posted them to facebook that started the firestorm.”

The press release continues and describes elements of additional damage as a consequence of the drone-strike, no photos are supplied of this impact damage.

“The Army helicopter sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck.”

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is a robust mission-capable helicopter and has been operational in the US Army since 1978, had this impact occurred with a lighter private helicopter, the consequences might have been far worse.

A US Army (USA) UH-60L Black hawk Helicopter flies a low-level mission over Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
A US Army (USA) UH-60L Black hawk Helicopter flies a low-level mission over Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

Additional photos have been posted to the AR15.com discussion forum and show the damage in more detail (photos courtesy of ar15.com).

The press release states that the drone operator was identified and that drone logs were retrieved in relation to the flight.

“The NTSB was notified of the incident Sept. 22 and began its investigation that day. In the following days investigators were able to identify and subsequently interview the drone operator. The drone operator also provided flight data logs for the incident flight.”

The question as to how the drone operator was “identified” has been subject to wild online speculation and rumour, some accusing DJI of handing logs to the US Army.

The reality is that the drone operator most likely handed himself in, aware that his drone had been involved in a such a major incident.

“The NTSB is investigating the incident because the drone was a civilian aircraft. DJI and the Federal Aviation Administration are participating in the investigation. The Army is conducting a mishap investigation. The NTSB’s investigation is ongoing and investigators are reviewing air traffic control radar data, flight data from the helicopter, the flight data logs provided by the drone operator and FAA airspace and temporary flight restriction documents.”

The investigation continues – we will update this story with the latest, as we have it.


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