Drone Hits a Robinson Helicopter, 2024 American Security Drone Act, and a Drone Rescue

Welcome to the Weekly UAS News Update. We have three stories for you this week: a drone hit a Robinson R44 helicopter – not good. The 2024 NDAA was signed with the American Security Drone Act, also not very good. And then a drone rescue – a good one on this one. So let's get to it.

And before we get started, happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2024 is a good one and that you get to fly your drones quite a bit – that's the whole goal, right?

Drone Hits a Robinson Helicopter

The first story this week is one that you've probably seen before in a Facebook group, I'm sure. Posted 20 different times this week, a Robinson R44 helicopter that was operated by Leading Edge Helicopter Tour hit a drone at approximately 180 feet.

That happened near the Daytona Beach . It's unclear at this stage what phase of flight the helicopter was in, but it was able to land within minutes and without any injuries.

The incident occurred above the Daytona Beach Flea Market in Daytona Beach, and the operator was flying a mission for a construction company.

The replacement of the R44 rotor blade is estimated to cost nearly $60,000. That's right, not a cheap accident here with what happened. Both the NTSB and the FAA were notified, and at this stage, we're not going to really assume too much. I want to wait until I see the full NTSB report.

But yes, the FAA and the NTSB have talked to both the pilots of the drone and the helicopter, so this is a confirmed midair collision in this case.

2024 National Defense Authorization Act

Alright, next up this week is the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, also called the NDAA. We've been talking about this all of 2023 and even some of 2022. This time the NDAA has the American Security Drone Act, the ASDA, that was added as an amendment.

We were worried that it was going to pass, and it did pass. Now, if you're not familiar with the ASDA, it aims to address so-called cybersecurity concerns for drones that are used by the Federal Government and Federal Agencies.

Now the law defines the aircraft as “covered.” This is a term I'm going to use in this article here, and it means that they were made or produced in .

So, the ASDA does not, I want to be clear, the ASDA does not ban DJI or Autel drones for recreational or commercial use. So, if you're flying a DJI drone right now, it is not covered by any of this, so you don't have to worry about it.

I know I'm going to be getting a ton of emails about this because every time we talk about this, I have students asking me that question. So no, if you have a DJI drone now, you're not flying for the federal government, you're not using Federal grant money to buy that drone, you're not going to be affected by this.

The ASDA does limit the use of drones that are made by what is called the “covered foreign entity.” But there's an exemption in here that is in place if the drone is, and I'm going to read the quotes, “as procured or as modified after procurement,” that's important here, “but before operational use, can no longer transfer or download data from a covered foreign entity and otherwise poses no National Security and cybersecurity risk as determined by the exempting official.”

Now, complicated wording, but basically, it means that drones with secure data mode, such as the Enterprise DJI drones, may be allowed to be operated by federal agencies and purchased using federal grants.

This also means that the technology that DroneSense, an American company based in , presented earlier this year, could also be a workaround because they were able to modify and basically strip the software and not have it talk to any servers other than American servers.

So, the kicker here is an interesting one: later in the law, there is a two-year buffer that means that for the next two years, listen to this one, for the next two years, no federal agencies may fly a covered aircraft, procure a covered unmanned aircraft, or spend Federal grant money on the operation of a covered aircraft.

This means that nobody can buy a DJI drone for the next two years, but in two years, when this law kicks in, it might be okay because what's going to change in the next two years?

So, there's something very fishy here about this two-year limit, which would bring some of the possible sponsors of this law two more years to get a full ban on DJI if that's what they were after – that's what they are after, we know that.

So, I'm not buying it, quite frankly. Again, I think this is very fishy. Let me know what you think in the comments, but I'm getting more and more annoyed about this ASDA shenanigans that we keep seeing everywhere.

Now, there's no limitation at this stage in the ASDA that's going to be limiting public safety from spending non-federal money on these covered aircraft.

So, if a federal agency wanted to buy, well, some DJI drones using non-federal money, then they could do that. If you want to get involved in opposing the ASDA, we're going to put a link down to the DAA website, and let your representative know that this is not acceptable.

Drones for good story

Alright, last up this week is a “” story that's out of Weber County, . Weird story, so listen to this one: a foreign exchange student, his name is Kai Zhang, was reported missing by his parents in China after they supposedly received a picture of him indicating that he had been abducted and there was a ransom that was demanded.

Despite the initial fears, there was actually no concrete evidence suggesting that he was forcefully removed from his house. Using a DJI Matrice 30T, the Weber County S team, that's our friend Kyle Nordfors and his team, located the student who was hiding in the mountains of Utah in a tent, apparently fearing for his family's safety.

Congrats to Kyle and his team for finding this person and recovering them safely. It's unclear at this stage what actually caused the incident, but we'll keep you updated if we see more. Again, this is another one of these that smells a little bit fishy if you ask me.

Alright, that's it. Happy New Year again, and we will see you on Monday for the first live event of the year.

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Greg Reverdiau
Greg Reverdiau
Articles: 68

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