So many drones and aircraft swarmed the site of Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash that the FAA was forced to close the airspace

Óscar J.Barroso/Europa Press/GettyA civilian drone.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration closed the airspace surrounding the area where the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant crashed.
  • The crash killed Bryant and eight other passengers, including his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant.
  • News, rescue, and law-enforcement helicopters are a common sight above crash scenes, but the FAA told Business Insider that a large number of aircraft, including drones, operating around the crash site led to the airspace closure.
  • Drones have been involved in numerous recent incidents involving aircraft and bystanders.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After the crash of a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant on Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an airspace restriction for 5 nautical miles in every direction from the crash site, effectively closing the airspace above Calabasas, California.

The crash killed Bryant and eight other passengers, including his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant.

The restriction, known as a temporary flight restriction, was placed at 2:15 p.m. PT, according to the FAA’s website, shortly after the crash as news, rescue, and law-enforcement helicopters flooded the scene.

While those types of helicopters frequently fly near crash sites, a spokesperson for the FAA told Business Insider that the agency decided to close the airspace, partly because of the “significant number of aircraft, including drones, operating over the accident site.”

The restriction extends 5 nautical miles in each direction from the site up to 5,000 feet above sea level.

While it’s unclear how many drones were operating in the area, the devices have become commonplace in the skies because they can be used for aerial photography and videography.

Most drones feature cameras with video-recording capabilities, enabling their operators to get closer footage of the crash scene than a normal helicopter could. The drones are lightweight, nimble, and don’t produce the downdrafts that helicopters do, making them favourable for filming.

Drones, however, have proven to be unreliable and dangerous for nearby aircraft and bystanders on the ground. As the operator does not typically have a 360-degree point of view, preventing a crash with a nearby aircraft, of which at least five were operating in the vicinity of the crash according to data from FlightRadar24, becomes difficult.

Though mostly small and compact, drones can have a devastating effect on aircraft. Researchers from the FAA released a report saying that the harder materials found in drones often do the most damage.

In response to the threat, airports and airlines have been coming up with ways to detect and avoid drones, CNN reported. Lawmakers have even recommended mandating the installation of devices on drones to keep them out of sensitive airspace.


In 2018, drone sightings at London’s Gatwick Airport shut down operations. Aircraft were not allowed to take off or land at London’s second-largest airport for three days during the busy Christmas rush. About 140,000 passengers were affected, and police were unable to effectively mitigate the situation, BBC reported.

Aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group/Getty ImagesPlanes at London’s Gatwick Airport in 2010.

Source: BBC News


Police were not able to find the operators, and a similar situation occurred a few months later with similar results, BBC reported.

Tim Ireland/Associated PressLondon’s Gatwick Airport.

Source: BBC News


Drones colliding with news helicopters is also a fear. A drone was sighted “a few feet above” a news helicopter in Washington in 2015, KOMO News reported. The FAA later told the news agency that it received reports of similar incidents around 25 times per month at the time.

aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group/GettyAn Airbus AS350 helicopter.

Source: KOMO News


A drone crashed into Seattle’s Space Needle in 2016, PCMag reported. The drone hit just feet from bystanders on the roof of the landmark, rendering the aircraft immovable, video acquired by GeekWire shows.

Elaine Thompson/APSeattle’s Space Needle.

Sources: PCMag and GeekWire


The White House also had a drone incident when a government employee inadvertently lost control of the aircraft, which then crashed on the South Lawn, The New York Times reported. It was the first time since former President Bill Clinton’s administration that an aircraft had crashed in front of the White House.

Secret ServiceThe crashed drone at the White House.

Source: New York Times


The restrictions on Calabasas’ airspace are scheduled to remain in effect until the end of the month, though that could change depending on guidance from the FAA and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

ReutersA DJI Agras MG-1S drone.

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