Officials are investigating whether a recent helicopter crash near Charleston, South Carolina, was caused by a civilian drone operated nearby. The accident, which happened last Wednesday, involved a Robinson Helicopter Co. R22 helicopter carrying an instructor pilot and student.
The two are reporting that a small UAV flew directly in their path, forcing the instructor to perform evasive action. That evasive action, unfortunately, caused the helicopter’s tail to hit a tree, which sent the helicopter into a crash landing, according to Bloomberg. Sources speaking to the publication report that the helicopter’s tail was severely damaged; fortunately, neither person was injured.
A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman confirmed to Bloomberg that it is looking into initial reports claiming a drone contributed to the crash. Assuming that’s true, this would be the first time that a drone has caused an aircraft crash in the US. The FAA hasn’t commented on the possibly of a drone’s involvement.
Reports of drones being operated illegally, near-misses with aircraft, and even possible collisions are increasing. In recent days, a video surfaced of a drone being operated directly above a commercial passenger jet in Las Vegas. Following that, more recent reports claim a drone struck a tour helicopter in Hawaii. Canadian officials also recently released a report detailing a collision between a drone and a small plane.
Though the drone model hasn’t been stated (and may not be known), Chinese drone maker DJI has preemptively released a statement on the matter, saying:
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.
Last year, DJI introduced a system called AeroScope that helps law enforcement and airport officials identify drones being operated in restricted airspace.