(January 23, 2021). A Chilean Navy helicopter was involved in collision with a small drone. The drone penetrated the windshield and caused an injury.
Chile – A Bell UH-57B (Bell 206B) JetRanger III of the Chile Navy struck a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone in Santo Domingo, Valparaiso, Chile.
The helicopter sustained damage to the windshield. The mechanic onboard received moderate injuries from the collision.
Drone Strikes Are Increasing
Suspected or confirmed incidents involving drones striking aircraft have been investigated worldwide, yet none have resulted in serious or fatal injuries to date. However as listed below, the strikes are becoming more frequent:
- A suspected drone strike reported by a news helicopter crew flying over Los Angeles on December 4, 2019.
- In a 2018 incident over Driggs, Idaho, a drone flown by an inexperienced recreational pilot hit a hot air balloon, but did not damage the balloon.
- In February 2020, a helicopter flying over Johnson Valley, California,collided with a drone while both aircraft were involved in filming an off-road race. The helicopter’s windscreen was damaged, but there were no injuries to passengers or crew. This incident appears to hold the distinction of being the first known collision between a manned aircraft and a drone flown by a certified remote pilot operating under Part 107.
- A 2017 collision with a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter patrolling New York City, an incident in which the DJI Phantom 4 had been flown far beyond the operator’s visual range.
- A collision took place in Hawaii on February 2018 at 2,900 feet.
- In Aurora, Oregon, on May 2018, when a Cessna 170 pilot reported hitting an object at 2,000 feet.
- February 6, 2020, C-GMPN, an Aerospatiale AS350-B3 operated by RCMP Air Services, was conducting policing activities 24nm SW of Houston (CAM5), BC with 3 persons on board. Also operating in the area were two RCMP operated RPAS units. During low level flight (below 300 feet AGL), the helicopter and 1 RPAS (FLIR SkyRanger R60 – 2.4 kg) collided. The helicopter suffered some initial vibration and the pilot completed a precautionary landing on a road without further incident. Maintenance staff found damage primarily to the main rotor blades along with superficial damage on the tail boom and tail rotor. The effected components were removed as per the maintenance manual for repairs or overhaul as required. The RPAS was destroyed. There were no injuries to persons in the aircraft or on the ground.
Of concern is that near misses are becoming more frequent, with the most famous being an incident with a drone and one of the US Navy’s Blue Angels F-18 jet aircraft.
To date there have been no known fatal drone collisions. This is only related to commercial and public flown drones. Military drones have been used as weapons for years and are not included in this summary.
Arrests Are Happening
On November 21, 2020, a 22-year-old drone operator who wanted to “see what was going on” faced a one-year jail term after his aircraft hit a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter on 18 September 2020. According to Fox News, Andrew Rene Hernandez’s drone hit the fuselage of the police helicopter, prompting an emergency landing. A car was hit by the falling drone. Police recovered the wreckage and checked the video card, which had nice clear images of the owner. He was arrested by the FBI and charged with one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft. There was no suggestion the collision was intentional.