The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada says “unsuccessful visual scanning” and “operator task saturation” both came into play in the collision between a York Regional Police (YRP) drone and a small aircraft at the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport in 2021.  

August 10, 2021, a Cessna 172 aircraft was approaching the airport as it collided with a YRP DJI Matrice M210. 

A recent report notes the TSB said a student pilot flew the Cessna with an instructor on board. A pilot with a visual observer operated the drone. 

“Following the collision, the Cessna aircraft continued the approach and made an uneventful landing,” a TSB report says. “After parking the aircraft, damage on the front left cowl under the propeller was observed.” 

The YRP drone was destroyed, and no injuries were reported after the accident. 

Collision Factors Revealed

TSB says Cessna pilots were “unaware of the presence of airborne RPA traffic in the vicinity” and “due to several factors, the active scanning that is part of the see-and-avoid principle was unsuccessful in identifying the conflict.” 

TSB notes that YRP policy “does not require that visual observers be trained crew members, and the RPA pilot did not brief the visual observer on his role and responsibilities before the operation.” 

“As a result, the visual observer was not aware of the requirement to maintain visual line-of-sight with the RPA, nor was he training in visual scanning techniques or aircraft identification,” the report reads. 

The TSB says the RPA pilot was operating the camera system and monitoring the status of the RPA while also communicating on numerous channels. 

“As a result, he likely became task saturated, restricting his ability to visually monitor the RPA and hear radio calls on the control zone’s mandatory frequency and the sound of incoming aircraft, both of which preceded the collision,” the report says. “As a result of these factors, the conflict went unrecognized and the two aircrafts collided.” 

Following the accident, YRP “amended its directive to include the addition of a pre-flight risk assessment tool” and has updated the RPA pilot checklist. 

“There is also additional guidance for the role of the visual observer, including a quick reference card outlining their roles and responsibilities, as well as a requirement to have a visual observer present for all operational RPA flights,” the report reads. 

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