Mid-Air at the Beach

Mid-Air at the Beach

It isn’t all aerial imaging and crop surveys; generally, folks use drones to do dangerous issues. Through a partnership with DroneSec—a personal drone safety intelligence agency with places of work in Australia and Singapore—RotorDrone Pro is ready to supply these briefings relating to the nefarious use of small UAS worldwide.

A Bad Day on the Beach

Incident Type: Mid-Air Collision
Incident Location: Punta de Tralca, Chile
Aircraft Type: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Incident Resolution: Crew injured however safely landed plane, drone seized

No one is extra forceful than me in advocating for the protected use of drones. We should at all times make security our highest precedence, and avoiding potential conflicts with crewed plane should be a paramount concern inside that total purpose.

Punta de Tralca is a well-liked seaside resort city with a sandy seaside, lower than two hours from Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest metropolis. In January 2021, a Chilean Navy helicopter conducting a shore patrol mission was struck by a small drone whereas flying over the realm, injuring one in every of its crew members. (Photo courtesy Gurkah Lodiak)

That mentioned, I’ve at all times been skeptical of the notion {that a} small uncrewed plane system (sUAS) may deliver down a crewed plane. After all, they’re designed to maintain fowl strike and proceed flying safely. According to 14 CFR 29.631, a helicopter ought to be capable to take a direct hit from a 2-pound fowl—reminiscent of a duck or a pigeon—whereas flying at cruising velocity and, at a minimal, be capable to impact a protected touchdown. That’s about the identical weight as a Mavic 2.

Furthermore, a number of real-world incidents over the previous few years have appeared to help my perception. In September 2017, an Army Black Hawk helicopter collided with a DJI Phantom in New York City. Immediately following the influence, the crew solely reported that that they had hit “one thing” and didn’t declare an emergency. It was solely after they landed as a precautionary measure and inspected the plane that they found the shattered remnants of the drone. The ensuing minor injury was rapidly repaired, and the plane returned to service. Following an investigation, serial numbers on the recovered elements revealed the identification of the drone pilot.

The collision between a navy UH-57B helicopter and a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone occurred over Punta de Tralca, a seashore neighborhood about 70 miles west of the nation’s capital of Santiago.

When it struck the UH-57B helicopter flying above Punta de Tralca, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro punched via the wind display and hit the flight engineer within the face, inflicting what was described as a “average” damage.

Then, in September 2020, a DJI Mavic collided with a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter flying at low altitude whereas supporting officers on the bottom trying to find a housebreaking suspect. The UAS struck the underside of the helicopter, damaging antennas, its nostril and its engine cowling, however there was no imminent menace to flight security. The crew made an emergency touchdown and officers on the bottom retrieved items of the drone, resulting in the arrest of the drone pilot.

Given my confidence, I used to be truthfully shaken by a case that DroneSec highlighted earlier this 12 months, and particularly the chilling photographs that accompanied it. As a neighborhood and an business, we got here inside a foot or two of getting our first lethal mid-air collision between a UAS and a crewed plane. If you could have ever shared my doubts, it’s time to jettison them instantly.

On January 23, 2021, a UH-57B belonging to the Chilean Navy was flying a coastal patrol over Punta de Tralca, a seaside resort city an hour and a half west of the nation’s capital, Santiago. The plane is the army variant of the Bell 206, referred to as the “JetRanger,” which can be the premise for the Army’s OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter. A base unit prices $1.4 million and seats 5, together with the crew. In brief, this isn’t a flimsy flying machine. Armed variations of the Bell 206 have flown in conflicts from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, and greater than 300 stay in service with the active-duty US army in the present day.

While on patrol, the Chilean UH-57B struck a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Its altitude on the time of the collision is unknown, however given the mission profile, it’s believable that the helicopter was flying beneath 1,000 ft. The drone punched via the wind display on the left-front of the plane and, based mostly on the out there proof, struck the occupant of the seat behind it within the face.

Fortunately, on this mannequin of helicopter, the pilot sits within the right-front seat. It was the flight engineer who suffered an damage in consequence. After efficiently finishing an emergency touchdown, the crewman was assessed to have sustained average accidents. He acquired preliminary remedy at CESFAM in Santo Domingo earlier than being transferred to Viña del Mar Naval Hospital, the place he was anticipated to make a full restoration.

DroneSec theorizes that the Mavic was in a position to pierce the helicopter’s wind display as a result of, though it’s about the identical weight as a fowl that must be deflected with out inflicting important injury, it’s denser and extra inflexible than an impediment fabricated from flesh and feathers.

One element about this incident has actually stayed with me: {a photograph} displaying the wreckage of the drone together with a bloody, ripped face masks. It’s not tough to picture the crew had been carrying masks owing to the COVID-19 epidemic and the Mavic hitting the flight engineer within the mouth. Just an inch or two greater and he may simply have been blinded. A few ft to the appropriate, and it may have been the pilot who was blinded, with lethal outcomes.

Under any circumstances, my fellow UAS pilots, I might have strenuously urged you to at all times preserve your drone in sight and provides loads of area to crewed plane working within the neighborhood. However, now we all know the hazard is greater than theoretical: being careless or reckless has the very actual potential to injure or kill our brothers and sisters who function their flying machines from the within and that’s one thing that we mustn’t ever, ever permit to occur.

Seen right here together with a face masks bloodied when it struck the flight engineer is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro that collided with a helicopter belonging to the Chilean Navy in January.

A member of the Chilean armed forces inspects the UH-57B helicopter broken when it struck a small uncrewed plane system (UAS) whereas conducting a shore patrol mission over Punta de Tralca.

BY PATRICK SHERMAN