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US Army Black Hawk helicopter damaged in drone crash

The crew were providing security for the annual United Nations General Assembly

New York City drone operators want to know: where can they legally fly their drones?

Short answer: in your dreams. You can only fly in a few designated parks in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Regardless of those and other restrictions, a civilian drone crashed into a US Army helicopter last Thursday, striking the left side of the fuselage, damaging one of the copter’s blades, denting the rotor blade in two spots, denting the window, and spitting out a chunk of itself that landed at the bottom of the main rotor system.

The helicopter landed safely at a nearby airport. The pilot was unharmed. The rotor blade will have to be replaced, and the hunt is on to find the pilot who’s responsible for the extremely dangerous collision. The New York Police Department, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Secret Service, the FBI and the military are investigating, but no arrests had been made as of Monday evening.

The helicopter was one of two Army UH-60M Black Hawks with the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They were in the city to provide security for the annual United Nations General Assembly, which drew world leaders including US President Donald Trump.

The helicopters were flying low along the east shore of Staten Island, 500 feet over Midland Beach, when one of them was struck around 7:30 pm, according to the aviation-focused publication AIN Online.

Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, public affairs officer for the 82nd Airborne, said that the military is now rethinking flights over densely populated residential areas. AIN quotes him:

We traditionally fly [in] restricted airspace or in combat, so this is a new experience. We were obviously flying over a residential area – a municipal area – supporting this mission. We are reviewing the process now should we receive another mission like this.

Besides the fact that the drone was flying over a residential area, and not over a designated flying park, it was also flying in violation of a Temporary Flight Restriction covering Staten Island at the time of the collision.

The Army reports that the drone was also flying above 400 feet, which is the maximum height that recreational drones are allowed to fly. The drone involved in Thursday’s collision wasn’t within five miles of either nearby Newark Liberty International or Linden, New Jersey airports, the Army reports.

Those bad, bad drones

This is only the most recent misbehaving drone story. Drone operators have flown close to UAV-sucking jet engines on passenger planes, police helicopters, and firefighting aircraft. They’ve flown UAVs on to the White House lawn and above playgrounds, concussed at least one person at a parade, and aggravated a homeowner to the extent of “Hey, gadget! Have a taste of birdshot!!!”

Yes, that man did get arrested for shooting down a drone over his property, but a judge later said he had a right to do it. That judge obviously wasn’t presiding over a court in Massachusetts: on Friday, a judge overturned a local law in the town of Newton, Massachusetts, that banned drones flying over private property at or below 400 feet.

Given all the collisions and near-misses, it’s a miracle we don’t see more drone-inflicted injuries.

The Staten Island Black Hawk incident could have been tragic – the helicopter held four crew members. It’s thanks to the skill of them all, including the pilot who reacted and who landed the helicopter safely, that they’re all safe.


Dang. If there had been an incident that brought harm to a foreign UN dignitary that drone could become an international incident. If the copter had been more severely damaged. Wow.

And I guess they didn’t find enough drone pieces to produce a serial number?


They were still investigating as of Monday night and hadn’t yet found the pilot. With every flavor of law enforcement on the case, I can’t imagine it will take too long!


I have had an interest in RC flight since I was a kid. When I used to fly RC Planes, they were expensive, you had to purchase them from a speciality store, you had to have someone teach you how to fly them and (unless you had land) you had to go to a flying field to fly them. Which meant you most likely had to belong to a Flying Club that owned the field and had to follow their Safety Rules. It was an investment and an effort to get into the Hobby. And those that took the effort, were most likely going to follow the rules.

The issue today is “Drones” have opened the world of RC flight to everyone. They are a lot cheaper, they can be bought in most big-box stores (or online), they don’t require a lot of room to fly AND with current technology, they are easy to fly. So ANYONE can go buy one and try to fly it in their backyard. Which has caused the RC Flight hobby to explode. I don’t think that this is a bad thing, but there are safety issues that need to be addressed.

How we address this, is difficult. Do we require pilots to be registered/licensed? Do we force manufacturers to include more safety material/training? Does the FAA need to define and promote better rules/laws? I don’t know. However, I do know that banning drones or giving them a bad rap, because of a few incidents is not the answer. We don’t ban cars, even though 1.3 MILLION people die in car crashes each year!

I also feel that the media needs to STOP dramatizing every negative incident that happens with a Hobby Drone. I bet you haven’t heard the stories about how civilian (hobbyists) Drone Pilots have saved the lives of over 59 people, 38 in the last 10 months (as of March 2017)! No, we don’t hear those stories which happen about once per week now.

As for privacy issues. The fact is RC Planes, RC Helicopters and even Model Rockets have had the ability to have cameras on them ever since I was a kid. I understand the privacy concern, but people can get a better (and quieter) “look” at things with binoculars, a telescope or a camera with a zoom lens. So if we start outlawing “drones” because due to privacy concerns, where does it stop…


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