A helicopter crash in South Carolina is suspected to have been caused by a civilian drone. If this is true, this will have been the first drone-related crash of an aircraft in the country.
The crash involved a student pilot and an instructor. According to a Charleston Police Department report, both of these people told investigators that a small drone appeared directly in front of the helicopter. When the drone appeared, the instructor took over and attempted to avoid hitting the drone. During this action, the tail end of the helicopter hit a tree or brush, which then caused the crash landing.
Fortunately, no one was injured in the crash. According to a witness, the helicopter’s tail end appeared to have significant damage.
The Insurance Journal reported that if this incident is confirmed to have been caused by drone interference, the incident would be the first drone-related crash of a U.S. aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to confirm the possible role of the drone. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman, Chris O’Neil, said the board is aware of the initial reports saying a drone may have been involved and they are taking actions to gather information on the case.
With more than 220,000 aircraft, the U.S. has the largest and most diverse general aviation community worldwide. But with the increasing popularity of drones and other UAVs, aviation groups are demanding stricter regulations on civilian drone use.
Under FAA regulations, drones are restricted to flying below 400 feet and the drone must stay within sight of the operator. Additionally, civilian drones are supposed to stay clear of traditional aircraft and airports.
Some reports are saying the pilot saw a white DJI Phantom quadcopter.
The drone maker, DJI, said in a statement, “DJI is trying to learn more about this incident and stands ready to assist investigators. While we cannot comment on what may have happened here, DJI is the industry leader in developing educational and technological solutions to help drone pilots steer clear of traditional aircraft.”
In an FAA study last fall, it was concluded that drones would cause more damage than birds of similar size due to the fact that they contain metal parts. The study confirmed the possibility of significant damage to windshields, wings, and tail surfaces of aircrafts.
Traditional aviation groups have expressed concerns about the increasing number of episodes combined with an unsatisfactory regulatory system. With software developers creating more complex drone operating systems, these groups have called for tighter regulations regarding civilian drone use.
This particular case, as well as many others, are currently still under investigation due to the fact that confirming whether a drone was involved or not has proved to be difficult.