Columns

Drone Lobby Group Offers to Help NTSB Investigate Potential Near-Misses

A drone flies at the Paris Drone Festival on the Champs Elysees in Paris on June 4, 2017. (Alain Apaydin/Sipa via AP Images)

A drone lobbying group today offered to help the National Transportation Safety Board investigate potential incident involving unmanned crafts as “media sensationalism” swirls around cases including a helicopter crash that might have been caused by a drone.

On Feb. 14, a Robinson R22 helicopter hit a tree and crash landed on Daniel Island in Charleston, S.C. The helicopter instructor who was flying with a client at the time told officers he was flying over undeveloped land when “a white ‘DJI Phantom quad-copter drone’ was headed into their air space.” The instructor took over the controls from the student to attempt to evade the drone, the police report continued, but clipped a tree and lost control. The helicopter crash-landed on its skids before tipping on its side. There were no injuries.

The FAA is investigating the crash. It could be the first drone-related aircraft crash documented in the U.S.

In a letter to NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, Academy of Model Aeronautics president Rich Hanson said their “expertise and resources” could help the NTSB in any drone-related investigations as the group has “successfully managed our community of responsible enthusiasts.”

“Recent incidents, for example in Charleston, South Carolina, concern us greatly, as the safety of the airspace is of the utmost importance,” Hanson wrote.

“The recent potential incidents involving manned aircraft and recreational drones raise important questions that must be answered so we can truly understand what happened,” he added. “There’s a great deal of media sensationalism surrounding these incidents, but what we really need are facts.”

Hanson said that “if warranted, we also greatly need tougher enforcement against careless and reckless recreational drone operators.”

“In addition to offering our expertise, AMA urges the NTSB to recommend tough and severe penalties for any drone operator endangering the safety of other aircraft and/or people on the ground. Tougher enforcement, including civil and criminal penalties, and possibly jail time, will serve as a deterrent to others who flaunt existing drone laws,” he added.

“We want manned and unmanned aircraft to operate safely in the airspace together at all times. We also want to get to the bottom of these recent incidents involving manned aircraft and drones. AMA is ready to assist the NTSB in any way we can with its current or future investigations.”