Aviation occurrence briefs

Collision with vessel involving a remotely piloted aircraft, at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, NT, on 8 September 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 8 September 2018, at 0700 Central Standard Time, a Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI) Inspire 2 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) was conducting a test flight above Fort Hill Wharf, Northern Territory.

During the test flight, the operator flew the RPA near a cruise ship. The RPA lost signal and the operator initiated the return-to-home procedure. During this procedure, at a height of 120 feet above ground level, the RPA deviated from the return-to-home path and collided with the ship, resulting in the aircraft being destroyed.

The pilot speculated that the ship caused interference with the datalink signal, resulting in the RPA deviating off course and subsequently colliding with the ship.

Safety message

The ATSB SafetyWatch highlights the broad safety concerns that come out of our investigation findings and from the occurrence data reported to us by industry. One of the ATSB’s SafetyWatch priorities is Safety risk of RPAs.This incident highlights the importance of ensuring that while operating RPAs, a sufficient distance is maintained from vehicles, ships, buildings and people at all times. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has published an extensive amount of information on flying drones/remotely piloted aircraft in Australia.

Further information about flying your RPA safely can be found on the ATSB website, under the news item: Know your drone and the rules to fly safely.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.


General details
Date: 08 September 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0700 CST    
Location   (show map): Near Darwin, NT (Fort Hill wharf)    
State: Northern Territory    
Release Date: 04 January 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft model Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI) Inspire 2 (RPA)  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Remotely piloted aircraft  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Fort Hill Wharf, near Darwin, NT  
Last update 04 January 2019