Drone Operator Errors Caused Drone, Helicopter Collision

Dec. 14, 2017

The National Transportation Safety Board determined Dec. 14, the operator of a drone that collided with an U.S. Army helicopter failed to see and avoid the helicopter because he was intentionally flying the drone out of visual range and did not have adequate knowledge of regulations and safe operating practices.

The incident took place near Hoffman Island, New York, Sept. 21, when a DJI Phantom 4 small unmanned aircraft system and a U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter collided at an altitude of about 300 feet. The helicopter landed safely; the drone was destroyed. A 1 1/2 – inch dent was found on the leading edge of one of the helicopter’s four main rotor blades and parts of the drone were found lodged in the helicopter’s engine oil cooler fan.

The drone operator was unaware of the collision until an NTSB investigator contacted him. The operator was also not aware of temporary flight restrictions that were in place at the time because of presidential travel and a United Nations General Assembly session. He was flying recreationally and did not hold an FAA remote pilot certificate.