The owner of the DJI Phantom 4 that collided Sept. 21 with a U.S. Army UH–60M Black Hawk helicopter that was on security patrol over New York Harbor told federal investigators he had lost sight of his quadcopter minutes before the collision, had attempted to activate the automatic return-to-home function without success, and was surprised to learn it had collided with the helicopter more than two miles away.
Vyacheslav Tantashov, identified as the drone pilot in a document published by the NTSB Dec. 13, also told investigators he was not aware of the temporary flight restriction that was in effect, and equally unaware of regulations that prohibit flying a drone beyond line of sight, a prohibition that applies to hobbyists and commercial drone pilots alike.
Data compiled and published by investigators offer deep insight into an accident that captured widespread media attention in the days following the first known midair collision involving a manned and unmanned aircraft. The NTSB confirmed in October that investigators had interviewed the pilot, but did not at the time detail what he told them, or how they found him.
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No injuries resulted from the midair, though the helicopter made an emergency landing and required repairs including rotor blade replacement. The DJI Phantom 4, a small, unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) in the parlance of federal investigators, was destroyed.
The NTSB published photos, the interview report, and GPS data from the Phantom 4 provided by the drone pilot. The online public docket also includes radar data, and GPS data collected from the Black Hawk. The NTSB published a final report Dec. 14, and investigators determined that the probable cause of the accident was “the failure of the sUAS pilot to see and avoid the helicopter due to his intentional flight beyond visual line of sight. Contributing to the incident was the sUAS pilot’s incomplete knowledge of the regulations and safe operating practices.” Continue reading about the collision.