An ag aviator making an application south of Morrilton, Arkansas, had a near miss with a drone on April 12, according to an Arkansas County Sherriff’s Office and an FAA incident report that stated an AT-802 ag aircraft had been making applications for a customer, who witnessed the incident. The pilot was in a routine turnaround while making an application at about 300 feet above ground level. The pilot reported there was approximately 1,000 feet of separation at first sight of the drone. At its closest point, the AT-802 had about 15 feet of horizontal separation from the drone. The pilot did not have time to take any evasive actions.
The drone operator was with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and flying the drone to survey land near where the aerial application was being made. The drone operator saw the ag aircraft working nearby but still elected to launch the drone. After the near miss, the drone operator stated that the ag aircraft sprayed the drone, so she landed it to clean the lens of the camera on the drone.
The ag pilot notified the customer using the ag aircraft’s services that he had just had a near miss with a drone, so the customer called the police to report the incident. According to the police report, the drone operator told the responding officer that “the crop duster did not have a transmitter on, therefore she was unable to see where the duster was locate [sic].”
The drone operator’s response underscores an unfamiliarity with FAA rules regarding safe operations between manned and unmanned aircraft. Federal Aviation Regulations §107.37(a) states:
Each small unmanned aircraft must yield the right of way to all aircraft, airborne vehicles, and launch and reentry vehicles. Yielding the right of way means that the small unmanned aircraft must give way to the aircraft or vehicle and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear.
There is no requirement for the manned aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B or a transponder in Class G airspace where the operation took place.
NAAA is following this incident and will provide an update when new developments arise. If you have an encounter with a drone, use the NAAA Ag Pilot-UAV Encounter Checklist to properly report the incident. While it might seem redundant, it is critical that you both report the incident to the FAA National Safety Hotline and call your local FAA Flight Standards Office.
NAAA will continue to promote the importance of manned aviation safety to drone operators, the FAA and the public.