August 29, 2019

Drone Pilot Complains About Near-Collision With Helicopter


The pilot of a remotely piloted aerial system (RPAS) is complaining to Transport Canada (TC) about a near-collision of his drone with a passing helicopter.

Jim Turnbull of 12 O’Clock High Drone Services was operating the drone over a gathering of boats and people who were attending a fundraising event on Glenwood Wharf Road near Caton’s Island, New Brunswick. Turnbull says that his drone was almost hit earlier this month when a helicopter passed by at treetop level, under his drone.

“There was a near disaster,” said Turnbull.

According to CBC News, Turnbull said he had obtained the required Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) a few days earlier, which entitles the holder to ‘own’ a specified section of airspace for a specific period of time as described in the SFOC.

The issuance of an SFOC normally results in the issuance of a NOTAM, as appropriate, by Nav Canada.

With the Bell JetRanger approaching fast at about 200 feet above the water, Turnbull recalled “I had seconds to decide what my options were going to be.” He ended up remaining stationary, at about 280 to 300 feet above the water, and the helicopter passed by under his drone.

“The whole purpose of the special flight operation certificate is to remove such hazards,” Turnbull said.

However, TC sees the situation differently. “Drone pilots are responsible for being aware of other traffic and must yield to other aircraft,” said Alexandre Desjardins of TC, whose enforcement division is investigating the incident to determine whether charges or fines are warranted.

Photo credit: William Daigneault