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An RCMP-operated FLIR SkyRanger R60 surveillance drone was operating in meters instead of feet when it collided with an RCMP Air Services AS350 B3 helicopter on Feb. 6. The drone was flying at 355 feet (108 meters) above ground level (AGL) at the time of the incident, while the helicopter was also flying low (below 500 feet AGL); use of the metric system to measure the drone’s altitude “was a contributing factor to the incident,” the RCMP said.
The helicopter and drone were taking part in policing activities during the Wet’suwet’en protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, 24 nautical miles southwest of Houston, British Columbia. A second RCMP-operated drone was also part of the patrol flight, but was not involved in the collision.
While the collision occurred earlier this year on Feb. 6, it was not reported in the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS, a Transport Canada system that provides initial information on incidents with Canadian-registered aircraft) until June 3.
The CADORS report classified the occurrence as a mid-air collision, which resulted in initial vibration when the drone impacted the helicopter. “The pilot completed a precautionary landing on a road without further incident,” the report states. None of the three people on board the helicopter was injured.
The collision caused damage to both the helicopter and the drone.
“Maintenance staff found damage primarily to the [helicopter’s] main rotor blades along with superficial damage on the tail boom and tail rotor,” the CADORS report states. “The effected components were removed as per the maintenance manual for repairs or overhaul as required. The RPAS [remotely piloted aircraft system, or drone] was destroyed.”
Following the incident, the RCMP confirmed in an email to Vertical that it hired a Super Puma helicopter operated by Coldstream Helicopters to airlift the AS350 from the road site where it made a forced landing. The cost of hiring the Super Puma was just over C$83,000.