On 19 September 2015, the flight controller of a DJI S900 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), prepared to conduct aerial photography in Toowoomba, Queensland.

As part of the preparations, the flight controller identified potential hazards associated with the planned operation. The RPA was designed to be capable of flight in the event of one rotor failure, and was also fitted with a parachute. The parachute deploys automatically in certain conditions, and deployment can also be commanded by the flight controller.

The flight controller conducted a daily inspection of the RPA, and found it to be serviceable, including no evidence of damage or cracking to the arms.

At about 1415 Eastern Standard Time, the flight controller launched the RPA from the rooftop of a nine-storey building. The flight controller again performed control checks, and then commanded the RPA to climb out to the north-northeast. About 30 seconds after becoming airborne, the flight controller heard a loud crack and observed the RPA roll rapidly onto its back. The flight controller commanded the parachute to deploy, but the RPA descended rapidly and collided with the roof of a parked car in the street below. 

The RPA was destroyed, the car roof was dented, and no one was injured.

This incident highlights the importance of appropriate RPA operational controls and procedures. These are particularly important where operations are intended in the vicinity of populous areas or other traffic. The careful application of operational controls and procedures, underpinned by robust risk assessment, is essential as RPA use increases.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 45

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