A helicopter crashed this week in South Carolina and a civilian drone might be responsible for the incident. On Wednesday, February 14, a helicopter carrying an instructor and a student pilot had a crash landing and the two people suffered no injuries but said that they went down because they tried to avoid colliding with a drone. During the evasive maneuver, the helicopter’s tail hit a tree, which resulted in the crash. The aircraft reportedly did not suffer any notable damage. The case is currently under investigation to determine whether the incident was drone-related or not.
Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years and many consumers purchase such gadgets and launch them into the skies for various purposes. Civilian-operated drones, however, could also pose safety hazards to other aircraft, buildings, event venues, or even people, and aviation groups have been calling for stricter regulations. This is not the first case in which a drone is said to have posed a risk of collision, but no drone-related aircraft crash has yet been officially confirmed in the United States. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the helicopter crash-landed near Charleston around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, but the potential involvement of a civilian drone in the crash has yet to be determined. Chris O’Neil, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed that the agency is aware of reports that a drone was allegedly involved but is still collecting information before trying to reconstruct what happened.
If a civilian drone really was involved in a helicopter crash, it would likely mean that it was illegally operated. Based on current U.S. regulations, civilian drones should fly at a maximum altitude of 400 feet off the ground and the operator should have the device in sight. The operator should also ensure that the drone goes nowhere near an aircraft, but the FAA has received thousands of reports so far indicating that some drones may be illegally operated. It remains unclear at this point just what type of drone was allegedly involved in the helicopter crash, but DJI is looking into this matter and is willing to cooperate with investigators. The current regulatory system makes it tough to monitor all drone flights, but the increasing number of reports citing safety incidents related to drones could warrant stricter regulations.