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Voice of the Aerial Application Industry
August 23, 2018
UAV Collides with Ag Helicopter in Israel

This incident confirms what the agricultural aviation industry has known for years: UAVs and agricultural aircraft working in close proximity to each other is a dangerous situation.

In an event that was bound to happen, a UAV has collided with an agricultural aircraft. The event occurred in Israel on Aug. 14. At 11 a.m. local time, a Robinson R44 was conducting an agricultural operation in an orange field near the city of Petah Tiqwa when a Phantom 4 drone collided with it.

 

According to the State of Israel Ministry of Transport and Road Safety Aviation Accidents and Incidents Investigation report, the R44 began flight operations at 7:05 a.m. local time and had already conducted two cycles of refueling and reloading chemicals. The pilot took off for his third and final mission of the day and had been spraying for 20 minutes before the collision occurred.

 

Simultaneously, a licensed UAV pilot started his flight operations, mapping an area under construction for a local building company. The construction site was adjacent to the orange field where the R44 was spraying. As the UAV approached one of the corners of the site it was operating in, the UAV operator noticed the R44 maneuvering low and close to the ground at a distance of about 30 meters away. The UAV pilot immediately switched to manual control mode and lowered the UAV rapidly toward the ground.

 

At this same time, the R44 pilot noticed “a white body at approximately 10 meters on his left side.”  The R44 pilot then felt a “bang” feeling, which he heard from the lower left side of the R44. The R44 pilot did not feel a degradation in the way the helicopter was flying, so he located a nearby landing area and landed the R44 normally and safely.

 

The UAV operator lost communications with the Phantom 4 drone and thought it was because it had crashed, either due to the slipstream from the R44 or because of a heavy landing after he initiated the rapid decent. After landing the R44, the pilot found the UAV jammed in the lattice of the spray system. The R44 and the spray system were inspected and found to be airworthy, so the helicopter resumed its work and then returned to its base of operations where it landed safely.

 

The report concludes by noting that the “drone era for the past few years” has challenged aviation safety professionals with safely integrating UAV operations with “conventional” aviation activities. The report further noted that both pilots were working in accordance with aviation laws and published regulations, were properly licensed, and adhered to approved and authorized working altitudes.

 

This incident confirms what the agricultural aviation industry has known for years: UAVs and agricultural aircraft working in close proximity to each other is a dangerous situation. NAAA will continue to push to require safety measures for UAVs, including requiring line of sight operation, installation of an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out technology, strobe lighting, aviation orange and white marking to promote visibility and other measures to ensure proper operation, and awareness by manned low-level aviation operations.

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This newsletter is intended for NAAA members only. NAAA requests that should any party desire to publish, distribute or quote any part of this newsletter that they first seek the permission of the Association. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), its Board of Directors, staff or membership. Items in this newsletter are not the result of paid advertising and are only meant to highlight newsworthy developments. No endorsement by NAAA is intended or implied.
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