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Transportation United States The Military

Civilian Drone Crashes Into a US Army Helicopter (nypost.com) 270

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: It was nearly Black Hawk down over Staten Island -- when an Army chopper was struck by an illegally flying drone over a residential neighborhood, authorities said Friday. The UA60 helicopter was flying 500 feet over Midland Beach alongside another Black Hawk, when the drone struck the chopper at around 8:15 p.m. Thursday, causing damage to its rotor blades. The uninjured pilot was able to land safely at nearby Linden Airport in New Jersey... "Our aircraft was not targeted, this was a civilian drone," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, the spokesman for the 82nd Airborne... "One blade was damaged [and] dented in two spots and requires replacement and there is a dented window"... The NYPD and the military are investigating -- but no arrests have been made.
The same day a federal judge struck down an ordinance banning drone flights over private property that had been passed by the city of Newton, Massachusetts. But local law enforcement warned that "an out of control helicopter could have crashed into residential homes causing numerous injuries and even fatalities," while the Post reports that drones have also crashed into a power plant and into the 40th floor of the Empire State Building.

"In February, a GoPro drone crashed through a Manhattan woman's 27th floor window and landed just feet away from her as she sat in her living room."
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Civilian Drone Crashes Into a US Army Helicopter

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  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @03:39PM (#55255317)
    Legal considerations aside: When I read "... over a residential neighborhood...", I would certainly not expect army choppers to fly there (at low altitude) - especially since they are probably producing much more noise than civilian drones.
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      You think that's bad? You should see the military CARGO PLANE that flies over my house every couple of weeks at approximately that altitude.

      • Where in San Antonio do you live?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My understanding is that the helicopters were patrolling for the safety of the United Nations general assembly. The neighborhood is along the shore of Staten Island and the helicopters were following the shoreline. It's reasonable for helicopters to patrol the waterways around New York City for suspicious activity. I suspect there are plenty of other helicopters flown in the area by the Coast Guard and the Port Authority. I suspect they were flying low to get a better view of anyone out on the water. I don'

      • Got a reference on that ceiling requirement?

        All I've seen is a "safety guideline" that suggests model aircraft be flown under 500'. No absolute ceiling was provided: https://www.faa.gov/uas/gettin... [faa.gov]

        • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @05:32PM (#55255879)

          FAA rule 107 provides the 400' ceiling requirement and a lot of other regulations covering both commercial and non-commercial drone flight.

          • FAA rule 107 (https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=20516) pertains to non-hobbyist drone flight: "The new rules for non-hobbyist small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations – Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (PDF) – cover a broad spectrum of commercial uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds."

        • You'll see a lot of people talking about rule 107 saying 400 feet, but they tend to omit that it's 400 feet above the ground OR WITHIN 400 feet of a structure. So it depends very much on the area where this happened...but as a residential area, it's very possible there was no height violation.

          Although I support the drone operator in this, it may be the time of day that kills him. You can't fly drones after dark according to the same rule set.

          The relevant pages are:
          https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/... [faa.gov]
          https://ww [faa.gov]

      • by ffkom ( 3519199 )

        My understanding is that the helicopters were patrolling for the safety of the United Nations general assembly.

        Wouldn't that be a job for a police chopper rather than an army chopper?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

          The UN general assembly probably has some black people in it and they were worried the cops might kill some of them. Might create a bit of an incident, that.

      • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @11:12PM (#55257153)

        It's reasonable for helicopters to patrol the waterways around New York City for suspicious activity.

        Not military craft on US soil during peace time. And not at low altitude.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @04:01PM (#55255385) Homepage

      The chopper was low but seemed to be at at its legal flight altitude. Honestly, I'm don't see a need for your average consumer to fly more than 400 feet above the ground. Anything that flies higher should be required to be licensed and carry tracking transponders like any other aircraft.

    • by technosaurus ( 1704630 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @05:58PM (#55256021)
      The only reasons an army helicopter should be ~500ft in a residential neighborhood is:

      * it's engaged in combat in said neighborhood (during war)
      * it's engaged in recon-Ops in said neighborhood (during war)
      * it's landing in said neighborhood (emergency landing)

      just another Whiskey Tango Foxtrot OP AFAICT.

      In all likelihood, the near-near-miss probably actually happened > 500ft, but the pilot had to cover his/her ass. Someone should do a FOIA request for the flight plan to get the cruising altitude and flight path.
    • That depends. My local airport has residential neighbourhoods right up to the fence surrounding the airport. Those residential neighbourhoods grew up AFTER the airport was built. Bottom line is that it's entirely possible the helicopter being at 500 ft is perfectly reasonable for that locale. The article doesn't provide details for either side of the argument.
  • Why so low? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Holi ( 250190 )
    Why is the US military flying at 500 ft over a residential area? Drones are legal to 400 ft and Helicopters are supposed to keep a floor of 800 ft, granted that is waived for the military, 500 ft is really low (no auto rotation) and not entirely safe for those below.
    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      They were probably flying over the water. The only time I've seen helicopters flying that low in NYC is when they were picking someone up in town, or flying over the water.

    • I've said it above, but I'll say it again: do you have a reference on that 400' ceiling for drones? All I'm seeing is that it's a "safety guideline": https://www.faa.gov/uas/gettin... [faa.gov]

  • Alternate solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Presence Eternal ( 56763 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @03:42PM (#55255331)

    Maybe don't fly multiple helicopters 500 feet over a residential neighborhood after dark?

  • Illegal Drone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @03:45PM (#55255337) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what black hawk helicopter was doing over a civilian residential neighborhood. I often wonder why I have loud military vehicles rooming my peaceful neighborhood. Are military supposed to be conducting operations on US property? What are they going to do next, shoot our houses?

    I think civilian drone operators needs to be responsible. but the land, the air, everything in the US belongs to the people, not the military. If the military is going to operate, they need to be diligent and responsible, not jacking off while they are on duty.

    I am afraid that this is going to be an excuse to limit our rights. What is going to be next? Are streets going to be closed because military drivers can't be responsible enough to not look at pictures of naked female military personal posed online while driving?

    Again, the drone operator bears some responsibility, but if our helicopters can theoretically evade RPGs, what the hell was the helicopter pilot doing?

    • It's entirely possible this was an improved stealth variant that they were testing to explicitly find out if anyone noticed the noise. Which means they very well may have been flying below 500 ft.

      • It's entirely possible this was an improved stealth variant that they were testing to explicitly find out if anyone noticed the noise. Which means they very well may have been flying below 500 ft.

        That's pretty unlikely. I used to work at an airfield that had one (or more) of those in a hanger and they closed the doors any time anyone wandered anywhere near it. There's absolutely no reason to do something like that over Staten Island. This airfield was in a relatively populated area and, from experience of "watching" it fly around, I can tell you that you can hear it from several thousand feet away. You just can't very easily tell where it is or which direction it was heading. The only reason I

    • The Blackhawk was around because the President is spending the weekend ~20 miles away.

  • I'm certain this was Chopper Dave. [youtube.com]

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @04:05PM (#55255397) Journal

    For your drone-watching pleasure [youtube.com]

  • Defeat the US military with clouds of cheap civilian drones.

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Well, the helicopter apparently survived the impact enough to safely land, and just got a couple of dents. Clouds of drones? No different than building a thousand target-tracking slingshots with rocks.

  • There is absolutely no reason for commercial or military helicopters to fly above private property or beaches at 500 ft. Instead of focusing on drones, we should to raise the lower limit for commercial and military flights to, say, 1000 ft, except near airports.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @04:47PM (#55255557) Homepage

      Yes there are. There are plenty of reasons. Was there a airport near? Police helicopters providing support or on the ground operations. Military, Police, and Civilian helicopters involved in search and rescue operations. There are plenty of reasons for this.

      Where there is no reason for a civilian drone to operate above more than 400 ft above the ground. There is plenty of reasons for commercial drones to operate above that limit but they should require licenses and transponders. There could even be a special license to allow civilian drones to operate above that limit if they wanted too.

      Aircraft carry people, drones do not. Some of these drones weight 40 pounds. That is enough to bring down many aircraft in a strike. If a few 10 pound ducks can bring down a 737, what can a couple of 40 pound drones to do to one?

      Time to stop treating these like toys and start treating for what they are, aircraft.

      • "Where there is no reason for a civilian drone to operate above more than 400 ft above the ground."

        Sure there is. My entertainment. You may not see it as a valid reason, but it's a reason nonetheless. It's also fairly hard to accurately gauge height AGL without telemetry... and hard to prove any hobbyist is flying above 400' AGL without telemetry, unless they hit an aircraft. Which is also the issue at hand: the drone operator in this incident clearly failed to remain clear of a manned aircraft.

        He's already

      • Yes there are. There are plenty of reasons. Was there a airport near? Police helicopters providing support or on the ground operations. Military, Police, and Civilian helicopters involved in search and rescue operations. There are plenty of reasons for this

        That argument is b.s. since military and police operations already are exempted from normal private property limitations. On the other hand, Joe's Millionaire Air Taxi does not need to fly over my property at 500 ft: commercial flights should be restricte

        • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

          Joe's Millionaire Air Taxi does not need to fly over my property at 500 ft

          But we are not talking about Joe Millionaire Air Taxi are we? We are talking about legitimate reasons for aircraft to be below 500 feet. An to correct you, yes every reason I mentioned is perfectly valid and legal. And thank God/Zeus/Cthulhu they are. Civilian helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are routinely involved in search and rescue of downed aircraft .

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      They have to fly low so the door gunners [youtube.com] can identify their targets.

  • by Above ( 100351 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @04:27PM (#55255477)

    The original article states the chopper was "struck by an illegally flying drone over a residential neighborhood". That would be a "congested area, in FAA speak.

    91.119 - Minimum safe altitudes: General [risingup.com]

    (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

    The chopper should have been at least 1,000 feet above the highest structure, so probably at least 1,100 feet. Had it been at a proper altitude, it would have experienced no danger from the drone.

    Chopper pilots, particularly military ones violate this rule all the time. Go to a beach near a base and they will be flying up and down practicing, I mean sight seeing very low causing a huge racket and generally annoying folks. There's really no punishment unless enough people complain, which they rarely do. Now that drones are on the rise, they have a real, dangerous obstacle. But rather than follow the rules and be safe, they want to blame the drones.

    Fine the chopper pilot and revoke his license for a while.

    • Wow you didn't even read what you linked:

      (1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA;

      Basically that means if there's a helicopter route or altitude restriction published you should use it (usually they follow highways or rivers) but otherwise you can fly low.

    • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @04:58PM (#55255647)
      You didn't read far enough. From your link:

      (d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

      (1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

      The 1000 ft altitude requirement does not apply to helicopters.

    • A residential area is not necessarily a "congested" area.

  • Miniature chopper does major damage to military chopper.

    The military is flying things that can't withstand the equivalent of a rock being thrown at it, you'd think they're a bit more robust for flying in military action.

    • guess you never played Civ III?

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Oh, it could probably take quite a beating - consider that the pilot went and landed without incident. It's just that you don't RELAUNCH a helicopter with a dented propeller.

  • Due to President Trump spending (yet another) weekend at his golf course in Bedminster NJ, there was a 30NM temporary flight restriction from 0-18,000FT: here [faa.gov] from Friday night through ~5PM Sunday. Staten Island is wholly included.

    The drone pilot should have gotten a flight briefing. The standard restriction for VIP TFRs, which this one shares, is:

    C. The following operations are not authorized within this TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, seaplane operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

    My emphasis. That's why the Blackhawk was around, by the way - obviously it's allowed in the flight restriction in support of the Secret Service. All non-military

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Sunday September 24, 2017 @06:04PM (#55256049)
    So a $500 drone can take out a $60 million helicopter? Sounds like the best way to defeat helicopter gun ships is to just surround them with huge swarms of cheap drones... they can't shoot them all!
  • Has it started already? First, it was the power plant, then the 40th floor of the Empire State Building, and later it was a Manhattan woman's 27th floor window. I am just wondering if these are practice runs and just a precursor to to what will really happen when Skynet finally has had enough of our pesky human existence.
  • Why do you need to replace a blade and window? Surely a militarised helicopter should be able to withstand a knock like this. Otherwise a large bird would put this out of action, as would any munitions strike.

    • It did withstand a knock like that. They replace the window and blade because it's a flying vehicle with a tendency to fail catastrophically, and they want it operating at 100% all the time, otherwise they put the pilots and passengers at unreasonable risk.

  • If you can damage a multi-million US$ military helicopter with a 200 US$ drone, then it is time to change paradigm.

  • when an Army chopper was struck by an illegally flying drone

    If it flies then it's not an "Army chopper". I saw Echo Company's XO ride a "chopper" regularly, it had two wheels, a noisy muffler, and "Fuck You" laser cut in the chain guard. I'm surprised the base commander didn't chew his ass for having a vulgarity on the bike. I guess since he wore his helmet and a reflective vest when riding the Colonel didn't give a damn.

    If it's got a big propeller on the top, and flies, then it's a "helo". Even then it's rare to hear anyone call a helicopter a "helo". It might

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