Helicopter Scare/Transport Canada Investigating

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Hi,

I just wanted to share a story with other Phantom pilots concerning an incident that happened to me this past summer......an incident that could have turned into a disaster.
First a bit of background:
I have been flying Phantom drones for 6 years and have followed developments in drone technology. I have owned various Phantom models over the years.
I formed a drone business and my business partner and I provide drone photography services for individuals, businesses and organizations. We handle various jobs from real estate to special events to land development and surveying.
My partner and I are both Transport Canada certified Advanced Drone Pilots and the P4Ps we operate are all registered with Transport Canada.
Further, our business carries full insurance coverage: Lloyd's of London $2 million coverage for drone operations.

This past August, our company was hired to do aerial work over a large outdoor gathering which was a fund raising event attended by about 700 people and close to 200 boats.
Prior to the event, our business applied for(and received) a Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC) from Transport Canada. The SFOC was then to be available and posted on the Notice to Airmen(NOTAM) bulletin for the date of the event.
We had Transport Canada permission to conduct drone flight operations from 400 feet and below in the area surrounding the event site. The SFOC was in place from noon on the day in question until sunset that day.

The Incident:
At approximately 2:30pm, I was piloting my P4P over water directly in front of the event site and I was taking still images of the scene in front and below.
While operating at an altitude of 300 feet, my business partner(acting as my spotter) shouted a warning to me that there was a helicopter that had suddenly appeared over a tree line to my left. Wind coming from the SW had prevented me from hearing any helicopter turbine engine approaching.
I immediately turned my head to see a Bell Jet Ranger come over the trees and was seconds from being in the area where I was flying.
I had little time to decide on what to do.
Ultimately, I decided to take my hands off the controller and allow my P4P to remain in place, hovering.
I did not feel that climbing or descending was a good gamble. My 'speed/time/distance' judgement told me there was a good chance the helicopter would pass below me.

The Jet Ranger FIRST passed underneath my drone and then turned to the right and in a clockwise fashion, returned for a second pass!
It was clear to my partner and I at this point the helicopter pilot had not seen my P4P perhaps due to the sun.
On the 2nd pass, the helicopter had climbed a bit and it flew overhead my drone and then continued away, flying due South.

Shaken, I immediately landed my Phantom and noted in my flight log what had just happened.

It's not every day that you'll be flying your Phantom and have a helicopter fly UNDER and then OVER your drone while you are doing a job!

We immediately notified Transport Canada noting the circumstances and all the details.
Transport Canada sent an investigator and my partner and I were both interviewed at the incident site about a week after.

At this point, Transport Canada has absolutely cleared us from any infraction......indeed, the investigator pointed out that my decision to hover in place as opposed to trying to climb or descend was a good course of action-considering the circumstances.
They correctly pointed out the helicopter pilot had no business operating at that low an altitude whether over people or not.
Further, Transport Canada says it is unlikely the helicopter pilot read the NOTAM bulletin in place for that area on the day of the event. Had they done so, they would have been made aware of drone flights ops being conducted throughout the afternoon.

At this point, all I know is that Transport Canada is continuing its investigation and my business partner and I eagerly await its outcome and findings.

Had this situation turned out differently, it would have been a rare case......

An aircraft hitting a drone......not the other way around.
 

captainmilehigh

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That was too close for comfort. Relieved to see all parties involved were not injured in the process. The outcome could have been much worse.

Thank you for sharing your story. Please let us know how the investigation turns out.
 

gfieldsr

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Thanks for sharing! You and your partner certainly had your legal obligations covered. Just as drone pilots error in judgment, so do private and rotor pilots.
 
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Wow you dealt with that well! Glad everyone's ok and you didn't get into any trouble! Funny how a manned aircraft interfered with a drone operation that had it's own notam, it's usually the other way around!
 

DoomMeister

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@Hendricks

Thanks for sharing your harrowing experience. I just would like to say that I appreciate that you run your business on the up and up, following the regulations and proper safety practices.

Your experience that day is a reminder to all pilots that you should always plan your flight (plan route and alternates, check weather, check NOTAMs, preflight aircraft, et al) then fly your plan. It is very obvious that the helicopter pilot did not check for NOTAMs in his intended flight area.

Thankfully there was no collision and therefore no bad press, although the media should run with this one to show that pilots of manned aircraft also screw up and fail to follow proper procedure and regulations.
 
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You have the time and location of the incident... Shouldn't be difficult
for Transport Canada to locate the pilot of the Bell Ranger. Helicopter
pilots need to fill flight logs as well.
 
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Thanks for all the great comments related to my story. I will absolutely post an update when I hear from Transport Canada on the results of its investigation.
We have a very good description of the colours of the Jet Ranger. Further, there can't be many privately owned Jet Rangers on the East Coast of Canada.
Since the incident, I have made sure that I have done a few media interviews detailing what happened and also pointing out that here was a situation where the drone operator was conducting flights properly and the manned aircraft was not.
As the Transport Canada investigator told me: " If everyone was flying by the rules here, then we wouldn't have had a near miss-potentially leading to a disaster."

Had the helicopter hit my drone, the impact point would have been directly overhead a crowd of about 700 people at an altitude of less than 250 feet.
The impact might have taken out the Jet Ranger's windscreen OR hit a rotor or tail rotor.
Regardless, at that low an altitude, the helicopter pilot would have seconds to react....otherwise he'd likely crash.

Coincidentally, about 3 weeks before this incident, I had appeared on a local CBC Radio News 'Information Morning' broadcast detailing the new Transport Canada Drone regulations. I used that opportunity to point out that the media(including the CBC) has a role to play in encouraging responsible drone operations.
Example:

CBC News had a news item this past June that used drone aerial video of the Toronto Raptor's victory parade through the streets of Toronto. The Raptor's had won the NBA Championship and over a million people celebrated in the streets.
CBC News used the drone video at the time without issue.

Several weeks later, CBC News used this same video in a news story about the problem of drone pilots conducting illegal flight operations........particularly over large crowds in urban areas.

I made the point that CBC News has a part to play here in supporting safe and responsible drone operations........

To that end, CBC News should NOT accept or use video that was taken during an illegal drone flight.

Period.

People that conduct such flights pretty much automatically provide these videos to media outlets and they like the attention.

If the media would not accept these videos, it would go a long way toward cutting down such irresponsible behaviour.

My 2 cents...........
 
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Thanks for all the great comments related to my story. I will absolutely post an update when I hear from Transport Canada on the results of its investigation.
We have a very good description of the colours of the Jet Ranger. Further, there can't be many privately owned Jet Rangers on the East Coast of Canada.
Since the incident, I have made sure that I have done a few media interviews detailing what happened and also pointing out that here was a situation where the drone operator was conducting flights properly and the manned aircraft was not.
As the Transport Canada investigator told me: " If everyone was flying by the rules here, then we wouldn't have had a near miss-potentially leading to a disaster."

Had the helicopter hit my drone, the impact point would have been directly overhead a crowd of about 700 people at an altitude of less than 250 feet.
The impact might have taken out the Jet Ranger's windscreen OR hit a rotor or tail rotor.
Regardless, at that low an altitude, the helicopter pilot would have seconds to react....otherwise he'd likely crash.

Coincidentally, about 3 weeks before this incident, I had appeared on a local CBC Radio News 'Information Morning' broadcast detailing the new Transport Canada Drone regulations. I used that opportunity to point out that the media(including the CBC) has a role to play in encouraging responsible drone operations.
Example:

CBC News had a news item this past June that used drone aerial video of the Toronto Raptor's victory parade through the streets of Toronto. The Raptor's had won the NBA Championship and over a million people celebrated in the streets.
CBC News used the drone video at the time without issue.

Several weeks later, CBC News used this same video in a news story about the problem of drone pilots conducting illegal flight operations........particularly over large crowds in urban areas.

I made the point that CBC News has a part to play here in supporting safe and responsible drone operations........

To that end, CBC News should NOT accept or use video that was taken during an illegal drone flight.

Period.

People that conduct such flights pretty much automatically provide these videos to media outlets and they like the attention.

If the media would not accept these videos, it would go a long way toward cutting down such irresponsible behaviour.

My 2 cents...........
Good on you... Yes... It is the Attention Whores that create all the Drone drama.
Do you have a Y/T channel ??? I'd subscribe...;-)

Jerry
 
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The Jet Ranger's second pass, which was overhead, cleared my Phantom by roughly 150 feet.
There wasn't any issue with rotor blast....although, at this point, I was rapidly descending.
 
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Hi,

I just wanted to share a story with other Phantom pilots concerning an incident that happened to me this past summer......an incident that could have turned into a disaster.
First a bit of background:
I have been flying Phantom drones for 6 years and have followed developments in drone technology. I have owned various Phantom models over the years.
I formed a drone business and my business partner and I provide drone photography services for individuals, businesses and organizations. We handle various jobs from real estate to special events to land development and surveying.
My partner and I are both Transport Canada certified Advanced Drone Pilots and the P4Ps we operate are all registered with Transport Canada.
Further, our business carries full insurance coverage: Lloyd's of London $2 million coverage for drone operations.

This past August, our company was hired to do aerial work over a large outdoor gathering which was a fund raising event attended by about 700 people and close to 200 boats.
Prior to the event, our business applied for(and received) a Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC) from Transport Canada. The SFOC was then to be available and posted on the Notice to Airmen(NOTAM) bulletin for the date of the event.
We had Transport Canada permission to conduct drone flight operations from 400 feet and below in the area surrounding the event site. The SFOC was in place from noon on the day in question until sunset that day.

The Incident:
At approximately 2:30pm, I was piloting my P4P over water directly in front of the event site and I was taking still images of the scene in front and below.
While operating at an altitude of 300 feet, my business partner(acting as my spotter) shouted a warning to me that there was a helicopter that had suddenly appeared over a tree line to my left. Wind coming from the SW had prevented me from hearing any helicopter turbine engine approaching.
I immediately turned my head to see a Bell Jet Ranger come over the trees and was seconds from being in the area where I was flying.
I had little time to decide on what to do.
Ultimately, I decided to take my hands off the controller and allow my P4P to remain in place, hovering.
I did not feel that climbing or descending was a good gamble. My 'speed/time/distance' judgement told me there was a good chance the helicopter would pass below me.

The Jet Ranger FIRST passed underneath my drone and then turned to the right and in a clockwise fashion, returned for a second pass!
It was clear to my partner and I at this point the helicopter pilot had not seen my P4P perhaps due to the sun.
On the 2nd pass, the helicopter had climbed a bit and it flew overhead my drone and then continued away, flying due South.

Shaken, I immediately landed my Phantom and noted in my flight log what had just happened.

It's not every day that you'll be flying your Phantom and have a helicopter fly UNDER and then OVER your drone while you are doing a job!

We immediately notified Transport Canada noting the circumstances and all the details.
Transport Canada sent an investigator and my partner and I were both interviewed at the incident site about a week after.

At this point, Transport Canada has absolutely cleared us from any infraction......indeed, the investigator pointed out that my decision to hover in place as opposed to trying to climb or descend was a good course of action-considering the circumstances.
They correctly pointed out the helicopter pilot had no business operating at that low an altitude whether over people or not.
Further, Transport Canada says it is unlikely the helicopter pilot read the NOTAM bulletin in place for that area on the day of the event. Had they done so, they would have been made aware of drone flights ops being conducted throughout the afternoon.

At this point, all I know is that Transport Canada is continuing its investigation and my business partner and I eagerly await its outcome and findings.

Had this situation turned out differently, it would have been a rare case......

An aircraft hitting a drone......not the other way around.
S tuff happens. A good reason to fly with insurance.
 
Phantom Drones from EALLRC.com

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