Yesterday, somebody shared on social media a clip of a near-miss between a DJI Phantom drone and a small airplane. This post is not about the who, what, where, why, and when, as many of those details are unknown. Neither is it is about being the drone Police. This article is about emphasizing the importance of safe and responsible drone flying, situational awareness, and keeping your drone within visual-line-of-sight, among other things, so that we can keep enjoying our hobby or profession and prevent dangerous situations like the one shown in this video.
Near-miss between DJI Phantom drone and a small airplane
Over the last few years, we have seen a number of near-misses between manned aircraft and drones. Yesterday, somebody shared this video on social media that shows a near-miss between a DJI Phantom drone and a small airplane. This video, as well as a number of others, shows the importance of a drone operator to be a safe and responsible pilot, to be aware of the surrounding area as well as keeping visual-line-of-sight with the drone. As these videos below show, both airplanes and helicopters can suddenly appear out of nowhere and surprise a drone operator, especially when he or she may be focussed on getting the shot at the expense of maintaining situational awareness.
Drone rules and tips to help prevent near-miss situations
Here are some tips and actual FAA drone regulations that will help you avoid near-misses like the ones shown here.
- Check the area where you're planning to fly to see if drone flying is allowed if any TFRs are in place and if there are any airports, airstrips, airfields, or helipads nearby. Apps to help you do this are B4UFly, UASidekick, KittyHawk, and others.
- Use an app like Flightradar24 to scan for any nearby air traffic
- Always give way to any form of manned aviation (FAA rule)
- Keep your drone within visual-line-of-sight (also required by the FAA)
- Don't just fly from your display of your smartphone. Keep your ears and eyes open and maintain situational awareness. Often times you can hear an airplane or helicopter approaching so you can safely get out of the way.
- Use a visual observer (a second person) to help you maintain visual-line-of-sight and situational awareness.
- Fly your drone below 400 feet AGL (FAA rule as well)
- Don't fly on days with reduced visibility (low hanging clouds, fog, rain, etc.)
Please fly your drone safely and responsibly so we can all keep enjoying our hobby (or profession). The last thing we need is to have an actual mid-air collision between a manned aircraft and a drone. Unmanned aircraft are still the safest form of aviation. Let's keep it that way.
Some of the most alarming near-misses have been:
- Drone and helicopter over the beach near Hollywood, FL
- Drone and helicopter near Niagara Falls, NY
- Drone and Blue Angels during a show in Detroit, IL
- DJI Inspire and a police helicopter in Tulsa, OK
- DJI Phantom drone and a small airplane
Some actual mid-air collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft have been:
- Blackhawk helicopter and DJI Phantom drone near Staten Island, NY
- Canadian police drone and a police helicopter
- News helicopter and drone over LA (suspected collision)
As a side note: more and more airplanes and helicopters come equipped with ADS-B Out. When a manned aircraft activates ADS-B Out drones that can receive that signal and warn the drone operator of the approaching manned aircraft. The only drone that currently has that capability is the DJI Mavic Air 2 as it comes with ADS-B In. Any future DJI drone weighing more than 250 grams will include ADS-B In. I have not yet heard of any other drone manufacturer including this capability in their drones.
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