Canadian Safety Board Probes Drone Collision

DJI Matrice 200-series quadcopter.
A DJI Matrice 200-series quadcopter.
Credit: DJI

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is investigating a second midair collision involving a police drone and an aircraft in the last 18 months.

In the latest accident, on Aug. 10, a DJI Matrice 210 quadcopter operated by the York Regional Police collided with a Cessna 172 Skyhawk operated by flight training school Canadian Flyers International near Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ) in Markham, Ontario, north of Toronto. The single-engine Skyhawk, carrying an instructor and a student pilot, landed safely at the airport but sustained damage to its propeller and nose cowling.

An incident report entered in Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Report System (CADORS) states that the flight instructor and student had just turned from the base leg to final approach for Runway 15 at CYKZ “and were established and stable at 1100 ASL (above sea level), or about 500 AGL (above ground level), when they felt a jolt that pushed them back on their seat. They thought they had hit a large bird…There was no change in configuration or power since they were about to land. When exiting the aircraft, they were shocked to see a major dent on the left underside of the engine cowling. The airbox was also bent.”

A few hours later, a police detective confirmed that a drone operated by the York Regional Police, the regional law enforcement agency responsible for the municipality of York in southern Ontario, had struck the Cessna, according to the CADORS report.

Canadian Aviation Regulations in general prohibit remote pilots from flying a drone less than 3 nm from the center of an airport or less than 1 nm from the center of a heliport.

The TSB has categorized the accident as a Class 3 occurrence, requiring a detailed investigation. The safety agency describes a Class 3 occurrence in part as an event that may involve multiple fatalities or serious injuries and causes moderate to significant damage to property and/or the environment.

On Feb. 3, 2020, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) helicopter and a police-operated FLIR Systems Aeryon SkyRanger quadcopter flying in the same vicinity collided in midair near Houston, British Columbia, forcing the helicopter pilot to make a precautionary landing on a road. 

The RCMP Eurocopter AS350B3 (Airbus Helicopters H125), which was carrying three people, sustained damage primarily to its main rotor blades, with superficial damage to its tail boom and tail rotor. The SkyRanger quadcopter was destroyed.

The Matrice M210 involved in the Aug. 10 accident, which was also destroyed, has a maximum takeoff weight of 13.5 lb. (6.14 kg) with two lithium polymer batteries and a camera gimbal payload. The drone type experienced a spate of in-flight malfunctions in 2018-19 while being operated by UK police forces, prompting Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority to issue a safety notice to alert operators to DJI firmware updates.

Bill Carey

Based in Washington, D.C., Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.