aerial photo | AMA Asks Public “Not to Jump to Conclusions” About Helicopter Crash

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By James from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (G-JNSH Robinson R22 Helicopter) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

The crash landing of a Robinson Helicopter R22 in South Carolina last week, reportedly caused by interference with a drone, has prompted the AMA to issue an official statement asking the public not to jump to conclusions about the accident.

There were no injuries during the incident, which involved a student pilot and an instructor.  The pilot and instructor told investigators that a small drone appeared in front of them, prompting evasive action that caused a crash landing.

While neither the drone nor the operator have been found, the drone was identified as a DJI Phantom.

“DJI is trying to learn more about this incident and stands ready to assist investigators,” said DJI in a statement. “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.”

The helicopter incident and other recent drone and aircraft interactions have led both the manned and unmanned aircraft industry to call for investigation and prosecution of rogue drones, which risk creating a hostile environment for legitimate licensed operators.  But with all of the negative publicity, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the world’s largest community-based organization whose members fly model aircraft and drones for recreational and educational purposes, has issued a statement asking for reasonable reaction:

“The safety of our nation’s airspace is of the utmost importance,” says the statement, issued by Chad Budreau, Public Relations and Government Affairs Director.   “This is why the incident with a helicopter near Charleston last week is concerning. With our decades of experience flying model aircraft safely, the Academy of Model Aeronautics has offered to help the NTSB with the ongoing investigation. However, while the investigation into this incident proceeds, we urge the public and the media not to jump to conclusions about a possible cause. This incident raises important questions that must be answered before we can truly understand what happened.

“The best way to prevent irresponsible drone pilots from endangering the airspace is to educate the public about the existing drone laws and – importantly – hold people accountable when they break the laws. Local law enforcement and the FAA should use their authority to issue civil and criminal fines, as well as jail time, against irresponsible pilots. For our part, the Academy of Model Aeronautics will continue our work alongside the manned and unmanned aviation communities to urge the public to learn and follow the drone laws at all times.”

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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