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
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
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.