6 Questions About an Alleged Drone, Plane Collision in Costa Rica

Nobody was hurt, but it's alleged that the small plane hit the drone with its right wing strut.

Photo Caption: A look at the 1960s Cessna 172 that allegedly collided with a drone in the air in Costa Rica.

A drone and 1960s Cessna 172 allegedly collided in Costa Rica on Thursday 400 meters in the air. No one was hurt. It is alleged the small plane hit the drone with its right wing strut. This is not the wing, but the strut supporting the wing.

The result was chipped paint on the strut. Superficially, it looks like most of other struts I observed when I was regularly out on the flight line as a flight instructor. If you are wondering why it is normal to see paint chipping, this is because rocks sometimes get blown up during the run-up process of airplanes and hit the aircraft.

In the United States, recreational drone flyers should stay below 400 feet above the ground. It is better to stay as low as you can because agriculture pilots and helicopter pilots sometimes fly very low sometimes, almost sneaking up on drone pilots who do not have enough time to react. I compiled a list of FAA guidance documents regarding recreational flyers, excluding 91-57A, in one of the chapters of my book Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them.

Now all you recreational flyers out there calm down. I know many anti-drone folks will use this as a perfect example to say that drones should be heavily regulated before “they take down an airliner,” but I think this is a perfect reminder of how much we need to educate new flyers on how to operate safely.

Unfortunately, as I explained in a previous blog post, the FAA is currently not allowing commercial drone flight instruction under a public COA or a section 333 exemption. We as recreational flyers should attempt to pick up the safety slack promote safety while we still have freedom to fly.

Before we jump to conclusions and fault the recreational drone flyers, let’s ask some questions.

How do you know that the pilot was paying attention?
There are many accidents that have been caused by the pilots not paying attention. It is a two way street for both parties to see and avoid other aircraft.

How do we know this is a recreational drone and not a drone operated by the government?
There seems to been some incidents of the military or even police using drones unsafely. The Academy of Model Aeronautics published a study on the FAA’s drone data and said, “In perhaps the most surprising example, on August 18, 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department notified the Inglewood Police Department that a drone the latter agency was flying over a crime scene ‘needed to come down.’ The drone was flying two miles from the approach end of a runway at LAX.”

How do we know that it was the drone operator flying the drone higher than he should have and not a fly away?
Could the drone been manufactured incorrectly? Was there some type of GPS interference?

How do we know it was a drone?
The internet was freaking out that a drone collided with an aircraft but it later turned out to be a bird.

Do we have any evidence there was a collision with a drone other than some chipped paint and a pilot’s testimony?

Do we have a drone wreck or pieces of the drone?

We need to investigate further and only make determinations when there are hard facts, not just chipped paint and a story.

Editor’s Note: This article was republished with permission from Rupprecht Law PA.




About the Author

Jonathan Rupprecht · Jonathan B. Rupprecht is a drone lawyer and a commercial pilot with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings. He is also an airplane flight instructor and instrument flight instructor. Jonathan obtained a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Magna Cum Laude, and a Juris Doctor from Florida International University School of Law.
Contact Jonathan Rupprecht: jon@rupprechtlaw.com  ·  View More by Jonathan Rupprecht.
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Comments

Jonathan Rupprecht · November 10, 2015 · 2:07 pm

I would encourage you to contact your government officials and tell them not to do a knee jerk reaction.

arnaldo8802 · November 10, 2015 · 1:49 pm

Hey Steve!

Thanks for your input. Here in Costa Rica it appears they have NO definition of a “drone”. So as such, ANY RPV could be considered a “drone” (would a paper airplane fall under that definition? Who knows.) I read the article about Ireland’s de-minimus 1 Kg exemption and I think that’s too high. I think 1 lb would be more reasonable. And the proposed US 9 oz is too low I think.

The incident here in San Jose Costa Rica was at a local park in downtown San Jose which is about 5 Km from the in-country airport where the student took off from. As such, the drone operator was a total and complete idiot to fly there. Also, the student pilot, while probably legal, shouldn’t have been that low over a congested metropolis (IMHO). I used to fly SEL Cessna’s and Pipers many years ago in Central California so I knoweth what I speaketh of here.

Regardless, quad-copters last year at Christmas and again this year are a HOT item for children here. Every major department store and Costco like warehouse store are selling them like crazy. So if they institute the law before year end, there are going to be a LOT of 10 year old criminals running around the country. Lock the little shit’s up and throw away the key I say! smile

BTW, I’m going to be visiting family in California this Christmas and it looks like every family member’s home I’m visiting will be within the 5 mile radius of airports so I’ll be afoot while I’m there.

I’ll see if I can find CR’s regulations and post it here for you.

Best wishes,

Arne

Steve Crowe · November 10, 2015 · 11:54 am

Hey arnaldo,

It’s certainly an interesting time to be a drone hobbyist, to say the least. The United States is recommending any drone over 9 ounces be registered, and Ireland is recommending anything over 1 kilo be registered. Both those registration systems should be going live before this holiday season.

My question to you, how are they tracking your flights? Can you send me a copy of the regulations? I’d love to read that document.

Here in the States, drone manufacturers and the government seemed to come to a compromise. Are drone manufacturers reacting to the regulations in Costa Rica? Certainly manufacturers don’t want sales in Costa Rica to go away.

http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/report_task_force_to_propose_free_registration_for_all_drones_over_9_ounces

http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/irelands_drone_registration_system_going_live_before_christmas/Drones

arnaldo8802 · November 10, 2015 · 11:20 am

I’m a quad-copter hobbyist living in Costa Rica and we’re running scared down here about the possibility our drone flying days are over. As usual, the Civil Aviation authority is going positively overboard in proposing new regulations about RPV’s, both for hobbyists and commercial use.

The incident you describe made BIG news down here and will no doubt intensify the government’s attempt to over-regulate.

The proposed law requires NO RPV flights within 8 km of an airport and not to exceed 400’ altitude.  Also, you can’t fly over the President’s house or the state prisons. So far, so good. This is reasonable in my opinion.

But it ALSO requires ALL RPV operators to get a license ($94 for hobbyists and $1,850 fir commercial use) but ALSO requires ALL operators (hobbyist and commercial) to take a government approved training course by a commercial flight school of 48 hours flight theory and 10 hours practical training before being allowed to apply for a license to fly. Problem is, there ARE NO COMMERCIAL DRONE FLIGHT SCHOOLS IN COSTA RICA!

What is ESPECIALLY nuts is it makes no distinction between flying a dinky Cheerson CX-10 weighing in at 50 grams with a 30 meter max range, or a HK-X350 with a 1,000 meter range. Nor does it differentiate between indoor or outdoor flying. In otherwords, you can’t fly your CX-10 (2"X2"X1” in size) in your living room without a license. In addition, if you’re caught flying without a license in your living room, you can be hit with a $10,000 to $20,000 fine.

Welcome to my world!


arnaldo8802 · November 10, 2015 at 11:20 am

I’m a quad-copter hobbyist living in Costa Rica and we’re running scared down here about the possibility our drone flying days are over. As usual, the Civil Aviation authority is going positively overboard in proposing new regulations about RPV’s, both for hobbyists and commercial use.

The incident you describe made BIG news down here and will no doubt intensify the government’s attempt to over-regulate.

The proposed law requires NO RPV flights within 8 km of an airport and not to exceed 400’ altitude.  Also, you can’t fly over the President’s house or the state prisons. So far, so good. This is reasonable in my opinion.

But it ALSO requires ALL RPV operators to get a license ($94 for hobbyists and $1,850 fir commercial use) but ALSO requires ALL operators (hobbyist and commercial) to take a government approved training course by a commercial flight school of 48 hours flight theory and 10 hours practical training before being allowed to apply for a license to fly. Problem is, there ARE NO COMMERCIAL DRONE FLIGHT SCHOOLS IN COSTA RICA!

What is ESPECIALLY nuts is it makes no distinction between flying a dinky Cheerson CX-10 weighing in at 50 grams with a 30 meter max range, or a HK-X350 with a 1,000 meter range. Nor does it differentiate between indoor or outdoor flying. In otherwords, you can’t fly your CX-10 (2"X2"X1” in size) in your living room without a license. In addition, if you’re caught flying without a license in your living room, you can be hit with a $10,000 to $20,000 fine.

Welcome to my world!

Steve Crowe · November 10, 2015 at 11:54 am

Hey arnaldo,

It’s certainly an interesting time to be a drone hobbyist, to say the least. The United States is recommending any drone over 9 ounces be registered, and Ireland is recommending anything over 1 kilo be registered. Both those registration systems should be going live before this holiday season.

My question to you, how are they tracking your flights? Can you send me a copy of the regulations? I’d love to read that document.

Here in the States, drone manufacturers and the government seemed to come to a compromise. Are drone manufacturers reacting to the regulations in Costa Rica? Certainly manufacturers don’t want sales in Costa Rica to go away.

http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/report_task_force_to_propose_free_registration_for_all_drones_over_9_ounces

http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/irelands_drone_registration_system_going_live_before_christmas/Drones

arnaldo8802 · November 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Hey Steve!

Thanks for your input. Here in Costa Rica it appears they have NO definition of a “drone”. So as such, ANY RPV could be considered a “drone” (would a paper airplane fall under that definition? Who knows.) I read the article about Ireland’s de-minimus 1 Kg exemption and I think that’s too high. I think 1 lb would be more reasonable. And the proposed US 9 oz is too low I think.

The incident here in San Jose Costa Rica was at a local park in downtown San Jose which is about 5 Km from the in-country airport where the student took off from. As such, the drone operator was a total and complete idiot to fly there. Also, the student pilot, while probably legal, shouldn’t have been that low over a congested metropolis (IMHO). I used to fly SEL Cessna’s and Pipers many years ago in Central California so I knoweth what I speaketh of here.

Regardless, quad-copters last year at Christmas and again this year are a HOT item for children here. Every major department store and Costco like warehouse store are selling them like crazy. So if they institute the law before year end, there are going to be a LOT of 10 year old criminals running around the country. Lock the little shit’s up and throw away the key I say! smile

BTW, I’m going to be visiting family in California this Christmas and it looks like every family member’s home I’m visiting will be within the 5 mile radius of airports so I’ll be afoot while I’m there.

I’ll see if I can find CR’s regulations and post it here for you.

Best wishes,

Arne

Jonathan Rupprecht · November 10, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I would encourage you to contact your government officials and tell them not to do a knee jerk reaction.


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