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Reaching Critical Mass

Discussion in 'News' started by LuvMyTJ, Nov 26, 2015.

  1. LuvMyTJ

    LuvMyTJ ADMINISTRATOR
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    A somewhat biased story from the heli industry. The story opens with this.

    While flying on the Pasquale Fire in September 2014, east of Nevada City, Calif., forestry fire pilot Jason Thrasher experienced a very close call. Despite his training, experience and strong safety mindset as a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) pilot, he wasn’t prepared for what almost hit his Bell UH-1H Super Huey.
    “There were two tankers and a yellow helo on the fire when I was called in to assist,” Thrasher explained. “I did a circuit of the fire area for recon. As I was on my base turn to final to the LZ, about 300 feet and 60 knots, I saw what I thought was another helo in the distance. In the time it took me to realize it wasn’t yellow, and the split second to process my error in depth perception, I realized it was a drone and it was only 10 feet away.” For comparison, a Huey’s rotor diameter is 48 feet.
    Thrasher did a hard left bank and the drone flew by. As he continued his left turn to track the craft, he noted it was a small, black quad-rotor drone typically used by hobbyists, and it was flying away from the fire.


    SOURCE - Reaching Critical Mass | Vertical Magazine - The Pulse of the Helicopter Industry
     
  2. shipdriver

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    There are already reports of what happens to drone when they actually get under the rotor wash of a helicopter. They tumble away downward to their doom. Since this didn't mention anything about the drone being tossed around wildly or rapidly losing altitude, I think maybe his depth perception never fully corrected. Looking through the FAA reports, distance errors like this seem to be very common with such small objects.

    The funny thing is, if drone operators are following the rules, helicopters are main airborne conflict threat, but helicopters have a built in 'force field' that fixed wing aircraft lack- a huge rotor which will either push drones away or spread drone pieces centrifugally away. Likelihood of engine ingestion should be an order of magnitude lower than with jet aircraft along with much lower collision speeds (if contact can actually be made before rotor wash does its thing). Another reason to avoid flying near airports and their approaches.

    As far as flying near helos goes, any drone operator should avoid getting near them if anything because the helo pilot will most likely misjudge the distance and will take evasive action which could have its own consequences because he has to assume that it is close. If you hear a helo but can't see it, get as low as possible. If you see it, stay away as best you can.

    One thing I find disingenuous about the article is how it talks about reaching 'critical mass' using an incident that is 14 months old at the time the article was written. This is part of the trend in drone reporting.
     
    #2 shipdriver, Nov 26, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015
  3. GoodnNuff

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  4. snerd

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    “Neither of the pilots saw the object — it had no lights,” said Guillaume Maillet, chief pilot of L.A. Helicopters. “We think it was a drone. After talking to them, from what I see from the extensive damage, and the fact that there are no feathers or blood to indicate a bird strike, it had to be a drone.”

    Another opinion stated as fact. Just guessing.
     
  5. GoodnNuff

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    Yes, they are guessing it is based on the evidence, or lack of, and we are guessing it was not a drone because we don't want it to be. I think that about sums it up.
     
  6. snerd

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    No, I don't "don't want it to be" anything. Until they can prove without a doubt, it was simply an unknown object. If they can prove it was a drone, that's good enough for me.
     
  7. shipdriver

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    Ooh interesting. Speculation alert: I see four main possibilities here.
    1: They had a head-on with a drone. They didn't see anything which is odd since most consumer drones are pretty well lit up, even my Hubsan X4 is quite visible at night (especially odd because large numbers of sightings have had no problems seeing drone lights). The R22 is a small, slow helo. I can see it possible for the drone to strike the helo before getting pushed down if closing speed was fast enough. Maybe its rotor wash is lesser than other previous helo-drone conflicts which were generally larger more powerful helos like those used by LE and military.
    2: The drone was above the helo and got sucked downwards and pieces (battery?) struck to windscreen. That would account for why they didn't see anything (assuming they were maintaining a proper lookout). Most piece would be flung outwards but something would probably go downwards. The drone above the helo is worst-case scenario for me, because that is the best way to get turbine ingestion of drone parts.
    3. It was a bird. It hit smooth plexiglass. That is not a scenario that I would expect much blood and guts. There was a Cessna earlier this year which struck something in the propeller in flight. A bird would have definitely left signs of its demise in that case, but just hitting a smooth window will not necessarily leave entrails. And birds don't have lights.
    This is recent, so a search of ground (or on the I-405 highway) would reveal drone parts if it were a drone collision (and probably a dead bird if it were that- although carrion hunters would probably limit that timeline). In fact, it is stretching it to think the operator would be able to find all the parts and clean it up to cover his/her tracks at night.
    4. It was a golf ball. There is a golf course right near the stated location. 800 feet is pretty high to get hit by a golf ball (FORE!) but the golf course is way higher than I-405 which I presume they were following if they were flying through Sepulveda Pass. Golf balls are not lit either and could easily cause that.
    *Not that I have high expectations for the quality and detail of the reporting and I would be pleasantly surprised if they did a ground search.

    As an aside, we were flying Harriers over Iraq about 8 years ago and one was getting refueled in the air, but the refueling boom barely struck the canopy and shattered it. The pilot was able to get the plane down to Al Asad airbase without a canopy. If hit right, it doesn't take much to shatter Plexiglas, although the Harriers canopy was extremely cold from altitude.
     
    #7 shipdriver, Nov 26, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015
  8. GoodnNuff

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    Ahh, and now we have the added guess that it was a golf ball! LOL.
    FWIW, a lot of drone pilots will black out their LED lights when doing night photography. In fact one of my drones allows me to turn the front lights off - either the Solo or the Yuneec Q500 will let you do this specifically for night photos.

    And this just appeared 10 seconds ago on one of my Facebook DJI groups:
    Toddler's eyeball sliced in half by drone propeller - BBC News

    Not a helicopter, just an eyeball. I just expect these sorts of reports to really hit a "critical mass" right after Xmas.
     
    #8 GoodnNuff, Nov 26, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015
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  9. shipdriver

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    As I have always said, damage from blades is by far the most common injury mode. Yet people still want to fly close to people on the ground (especially toddlers- for real?). That is probably the most serious I have yet seen though.
    I did say "speculation alert" which was appropriate since the pilot's report was, frankly, far less well thought out speculation. I also don't consider it a guess, just one of four possibilities (2 of which were drones).
     
  10. LuvMyTJ

    LuvMyTJ ADMINISTRATOR
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    It was a UFO! Aliens! Seriously though, I have a scratch built drone with no lights at all on it, so anything is possible.

    And keep it nice & friendly in here. ;)
     
  11. dirkclod

    dirkclod Moderator
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  12. LuvMyTJ

    LuvMyTJ ADMINISTRATOR
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    Googles for your little buddy... stat!

    [​IMG] images.jpeg
     
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  13. dirkclod

    dirkclod Moderator
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    You can count on that !! Man I hate seeing that kid hurt .
     
  14. LuvMyTJ

    LuvMyTJ ADMINISTRATOR
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    If I already didn't wear glasses I would wear safety glasses as I hand catch her at eye level. :eek:
    I suggest you all do the same. Just thinking about that poor kid makes my eye hurt. :(
     
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  15. N017RW

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    Sobering.

    So often there is an ignorance for safety.

    People cite things similar to:
    "There has never been a [drone] this or that so why can't I do this or that or fly here or there?"

    Then that is followed up with a slew of statistics of how dangerous other [common] things or activities are. As this somehow makes OTHERS risk to injury from YOUR drone acceptable.

    Those who have been around r/c aircraft prior to the Flight Controller era know the nature of the reliability and type of injuries related to the hobby/sport. Up til now you had to learn/know how to fly an r/c aircraft which took dedication, discipline, and skill and in so doing were exposed to and respected the type of failures and injuries which commonly occur.

    It all comes down to probability, and though it is low, but imagine living with the thought of having injured or maimed another person with a toy flying camera.
     
  16. The Editor

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  17. Meta4

    Meta4 Moderator
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    This goes both ways
    Look at the FAA database "incidents"
    A lot of those are extremely unlikely to have been drones but because:
    some people want to believe there is a plague of drones filling the skies, or
    they have been persuaded by others that there is a plague of drones filling the skies,​
    ... that is what gets reported.
     
  18. snerd

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  19. dirkclod

    dirkclod Moderator
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    images6Z9TC3UF.jpg
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    head in sand.jpg Was not me :)
     
  20. AlexSP

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    Very well said, N017RW. I'm a RC/hobbyist and I agree about the importance of walking the whole path of the learning curve. I've seen some nasty accidents and how those led to the development of the safety rules and procedures adopted today to diminish the probabilities, as you said. I have the same view towards other things too, such as martial arts when you learn to use your powers as you acquire them VERSUS guns that give instant destruction power for example. The list goes on.

    Yet, accidents still occur. I'm also an engineer/architect and regulations/safeguards are very strict in our business, for obvious reasons. Still we see many accidents, serious ones. Now, some ppl may argue (and many do) that construction is "important" for mankind, for progress or whatever, and RC or drone flying is just a hobby, an indulgence, a toy". I disagree, and bellow I try to argue my point.

    When cell phones first appeared, ppl where admired, curious and afraid in about equal levels. Many believed they'd give brain cancer (some still do btw), fry eggs or cause damage by going into spontaneous combustion - and would get away and frown upon seeing those talking bricks. A few accidents did happen, but smartphones are ubiquitous. The same happened with cars, which btw still cause a great deal of damage, but can't be avoided. Trucks, trains, airplanes, even toasters! etc. And so on. Of course the argument of "society can't live without all this stuff but drones are toys..." can also be thrown here.

    Fact is, the toothpaste won't go back into the tube. Simply doesn't happen.

    What I am trying to say is, it's just inevitable. The reaching of critical mass will bring the increase of accidents, I agree on that one. That will bring the need for regulation, first some very strict ones to counter the issues and the "threat" and also give society and press satisfaction. Maybe ppl, animals and property will get hurt. Maybe some will go to jail, be sued. There will be fights and arguments, both for and against drones. But it won't go away, ever. Drones are here to stay, just as smartphones, cars, airplanes, Uber and many other technologies that have the exact same potential to cause good and evil. What about the internet then?? See what I mean...

    Then the pendulum will swing back as it always does, and most likely everything will lean towards a more balanced status. Now everyone and his dog wants a Phantom. It will explode - and that's a clear sign of the interest that ppl have in this new technology and its potential to do good, help ppl and take society to new levels of development by increasing productivity and so on. Yes, it can and will cause hurt and grief, but I'd say drones have a huge potential of saving lives and increase safety in many ways more than otherwise, and that is what draws ppl to them. It may be conscious or intuitive but it's there.

    Information will spread and increase too, of course, and that will sure help matters. At some point the interest will fade. Those who jump every bandwagon - both from the business and consumer sides - will move on to another "newness" that will surface. The press will follow, and it all becomes everyday again. Many will remain in the business, and everything will become "normal", just another gadget to charge and play or do business with. We will find a way and this moment right now is part of the process. Even the idiots flying near airports and doing stupid things with drones are important. I'm in no way vouching for them, please! I just accept they're part of the process in a way - at the very least because we may even get rid of drones but eradicating ignorance is impossible...

    Maybe I'm wrong, who knows. I'm only 45 and I've seen this happening with pretty much every new tech that has appeared since I was born, which are quite a few because back in the 70's life was considerably simpler (LOL). I can totally understand society being afraid of drones now. Collectively and individually we fear that we don't totally understand, and let's be honest: a P3 is quite an engineering achievement even by nowadays' standards! Some are marveled, some are mad, some are afraid, some are indifferent... That's how it is.

    Everyone knows what they are capable of because we watch them invisibly spying in detail and/or bombing terrorists in the far east all the time on TV. We also see them falling accidentally (or not) in the White House and other places too. It’s not like a P3 or Bebop will come close to anything like that (except of course crashing into backyards), but it's not hard to see that by association people will assume that drones in general are sneaky privacy invaders or flying bombs, or just potentially failure-prone devices that will at a point crash into cars, property and people, causing damage. And in part they're right, hence the need for regulations.

    Everything changes. Except the fact that mankind advances through trial and error. That's a cool process if you ask me. We are in the "trying and making errors" business, strong trial phase which is also a strong learning phase now, and learning always has a price. It just can't (and won't) stop progress. Quite otherwise. For good or bad, that's the way we move on.

    I for myself follow a simple rule: individually, I take every possible measure to ensure what I'm doing is safe, hope for the best, use common sense, etc. And I'm, ready to face responsibility if something happens too. Collectively, I believe we should do everything we can and keep fighting for our right to fly our P3s. That means keep flying however we can now, because neither side will learn anything if drones stay on the ground.

    Sorry for the long post everyone!!
     
    #20 AlexSP, Dec 1, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
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