The FAA is investigating what could be the first case of a drone causing an aircraft to crash in the US

Drones are getting as dangerous as they are annoying. Picture: Getty Images
  • A helicopter pilot in Hawaii took action after a drone appeared “directly in front”.
  • The pilot and passenger were okay but the chopper was damaged after hitting tree and crashing.
  • Reports of improper drone flying are up 50% on past year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report that a drone may have caused a helicopter to crash on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

There were no reported injuries to the pilot or passenger, but the helicopter’s tail “appeared to have significant damage”, a person “familiar with the incident” told Bloomberg.

If true, it would be the first official confirmation of a drone-related aircraft crash in the US.

The incident was first reported a week ago, but the helicopter operator at the time refused to comment.

The National Transportation Safety Board opened an investigation into the incident on Friday, saying it was “aware of the pilot’s report that he was maneuvering to avoid a drone, but the NTSB has not yet been able to independently verify that information”.

The FAA also refused to confirm the role of the drone, but a police report said the passenger, a student, was practising low-altitude hovering over the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park when a small white drone appeared “directly in front of them”.

The pilot took over the controls and tried to avoid the drone, but hit a tree.

Bloomberg reports the drone was a DJI Phantom, and the company said it was “ready to assist investigators”.

The drones log flights using GPS data, but the user has not yet been found.

The incident occurred less than a week after the FAA opened an investigation into this footage taken by a drone over Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport:

Research from the FAA released in November warned that the millions of drones now in use around the world pose a much greater risk to aircraft than birds, and their metal parts and weight could cause “significant” damage.

Reports at the time of improper flying were up more than 50 per cent on the year before, to around 250 close incidents a month.

In the UK, just two weeks after Heathrow Airport’s local council effectively banned people from flying drones from anywhere within the borough’s public spaces, an Airbus A321 pilot reported he thought he’d hit a “three or four engine drone” which he spotted flying just 1.5 metres out of his window.

And drones are becoming an increasing cause for concern for the US military.

Unlike civilian passenger planes, however, they can rely on a Sikorsky H-60 airframe and a M3 machine gun:

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