In October 2017 we reported on a mid-air impact between a DJI Phantom 4 drone and a US Military helicopter. The official analysis and verdict has now been published by the National Transportation Safety Board.
In October a United States Army UH-60M helicopter was flying at 300ft above Hoffman Island (Lower New York Bay), during which it collided with a foreign object later identified as a DJI Phantom 4 drone.
The impact caused damage to the rotor blade of the armored helicopter, as well as to the cockpit window area. Components from the drone, including a motor arm, were found lodged in the helicopter.
A 1 1/2-inch dent was found on the leading edge of one of the UH-60’s main rotor blades, surrounded by various scratches and material transfer. Some cracks were observed in the composite fairing and window frame material. The Phantom 4 sUAS was destroyed and several components were lodged in the helicopter.
The drone pilot was quickly located (via unknown means) and it was revealed that the pilot had been flying the drone 2.5 miles away from take-off spot, far out of visual line-of-sight. The pilot stated that he was aware of the 400ft altitude ceiling although investigation into his smart-device flight history illustrated a previous flight to 547ft at a distance of 1.8 miles.
Additionally, his flight path directly breached two NOTAMs (Notice To Airmen), one in relation to a United Nations GEnweral Assembly Meeting, the second establishing a VIP Presidential no-fly-zone in the area, including a prohibition on model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). When the pilot was asked about regulations or guidance for drone flights, he stated that he “knew to stay away from airports, and was aware there was Class B airspace nearby” but relied on “the app” to tell him whether or not it was safe to fly.
The drone pilot’s smart device (a tablet) lacked an internet connection and had not been connected to WiFi whilst the TFR was active, therefore rendering the TFR information out-of-date.
The detached arm of a DJI Phantom 4 drone, recovered following a crash with a US army helicopter.
At approximately 19:20 the drone logs ended, previous log entries had revealed that the pilot had activated RTH (Return To Home) and that shortly after the drone had warned the pilot that the drone battery was almost fully depleted.
“The sUAS pilot reported that he lost signal with the aircraft and assumed it would return home as programmed. After waiting about 30 minutes, he assumed it had experienced a malfunction and crashed in the water.”, NTSB Report
The NTSB concluded that cause of the incident was a failure of the drone pilot to see and avoid the helicopter due as he has flown far beyond visual Line-Of-Sight.
A contributing factor was the pilot’s lack of knowledge regarding drone regulation, NOTAMs and safe operating practices.
There has been no information released since concerning any applicable penalty, fine or sentencing for the drone pilot.
You can read the full NTSB report here:
With increased regulation and law being introduced in many countries this coming year, it is the responsibility of new pilots to educate themselves on local law, safe flight practices and common sense, otherwise we will all soon lose the freedoms that we enjoy today.
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