A Cessna 172 that was approaching for landing and impacted a drone at about 500 ft altitude a mile away from the airport. The pilot was able to land safely, and assumed that they had just hit a bird. A few hours later, a police detective confirmed a York Regional Police drone had struck their aircraft
The police department was flying in restricted airspace without following the proper procedures. The event did not get enough media attention, and several social media users were outraged that the incident was not given enough attention because it was by the Police. If this was by a civilian drone pilot, what would the media reaction be?
Fortunately, while the damage to the aircraft was substantial, the pilot and the passenger landed safely. Just like the other drone-aircraft collisions from before, there wasn’t any loss of life or injury. We can breathe a sigh of relief, and get on with things as they are right?
Those four confirmed incidents are four too many. The main thing that’s holding back the economic potential of drones are regulations. The regulators are concerned about safety and tend to take things slow. Ireland and Australia have actual last-mile drone deliveries happening right now because of permissive drone laws. For the economic potential of drones to be realized across the globe, the regulations need to support it and it won’t happen as long as incidents like these continue.
The issue is people. Human error is the main reason for over 80% of aviation incidents. It’s the same story with drones. Human error is the majority cause of incidents. However, unlike manned aircraft, every incident caused by a drone bears high scrutiny. Aircraft pilots have skin in the game, and drone pilots don’t. Every time a drone pilot does something irresponsible, it can be seen as a threat to the safety of others.
In several forums on the internet, you can see veteran drone pilots and hobbyists instruct newcomers to fly responsibly if they’re seen doing unsafe things. This sense of safety and responsibility is an absolute minimum requirement in every drone pilot. I don’t know what’s the best way to introduce this shift in mindset, maybe it’s more intensive training, or maybe it’s education, or perhaps real-time tracking. Whatever the solution may be, I hope that we figure it out soon. Because, the next time a collision occurs, it might not fly under the radar like this one.