The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that it is still investigating the collision between a recreational drone and an Army UH-60 helicopter which took place September 21 in New York. The NTSB is an independent federal agency responsible for investigating and determining “probable cause” for transportation-related accidents.
While there have been several initially believable reports of drone collisions in the last year, no previous reports have been proven true. Many, in fact, have proven otherwise after further investigation. A widely reported near miss at Heathrow airport was later determined to have been floating debris like a plastic bag. A report from Australia which showed significant wing damage to a small sport aircraft, initially called a drone collision, was later found to be a collision with a large bat. This time, however, hard evidence including pieces of a DJI drone were found – and apparently the drone operator has also been located.
“At approximately 7:20 p.m. Sept. 21, the drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, and the helicopter collided. The Army helicopter sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck. A motor and arm from a small drone, identified as a DJI Phantom 4, were recovered from the helicopter,” the NTSB reports. “…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 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.”
It is unclear if any FAA regulations were broken by the drone operator. The NTSB says that 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.”
As one of the only documented case of an actual collision between a recreational drone and a manned aircraft, drone operators are watching the case closely to see what actions the FAA may take after the investigation is complete.