Just a few months ago, a drone smashed into an American helicopter. The army helicopter did not take much damage, though the drone was completely destroyed.
A full report was released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shortly after the incident, after investigating the crash a month afterwards in October.
The crash happened over Hoffman Island in New York. Vyacheslav Tantashov, a drone hobbyist, flew his DJI Phantom 4 a far 2.5 miles away from him, and the NTSB reports that this was out of his visual line of sight. The NTSB investigators concluded that Tantashov did not fully understand the FAA’s drone regulations very well, and only had a general cursory awareness of good operating practices, suggesting that he was at fault.
The FAA’s rules and regulations prevent pilots from flying drones above 400 feet, near airports and other areas with security measures and restrictions, or far out of their field of vision. Pilots found to break these rules can be punished with jail or hefty fines. The NTSB report did not mention whether or not Tantashov would be penalized for breaking the rules and hitting the military helicopter.
Helicopters frequent the area where Tantashov’s drone collided with the military helicopter, making this incident even more worrying. The FAA had given permission to the U.S. military to fly their UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter in that airspace, and as a result, the airspace was restricted to drones.
There were no injuries as a result of the collision, however the drone’s motor and one of its arms were found lodged in the helicopter, as well as various pieces of debris in retrieved from the helicopter’s engine’s cooler fan. The drone did not affect the helicopter pilot’s steering at all.
This accident highlights the dangers that drones pose to aircraft such as helicopters. This last November, the FAA published research that showed that drone collisions were more dangerous to aircraft than bird collisions of the same weight and speed. You can read about that study in our previous article, published here.