The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) recently released its report on the collision between a police-operated drone and a Cessna 172 at Toronto’s Buttonville airport (CYKZ) on August 10, 2021. The 172 with a flight instructor and student pilot on board was on approach to Runway 15 at CYKZ at around 13:00 hours when, at about 400 feet AGL, the pilots felt a “solid impact”, which they assumed at the time to have been a bird strike. After a normal landing, they noted extensive damage to the lower cowl of the aircraft but no evidence of a bird.
A short time later a member of the York Regional Police contacted airport staff to report that he suspected a police drone he had been operating, a 6.1-kg DJI Matrice M210, had collided with an aircraft. The drone was providing aerial surveillance of a police operation nearby and was in a stationary hover under the approach path to Runway 15.
The TSB, while not assessing blame, noted that the drone pilot had requested another officer to serve as a visual observer (as required by regulations). However, the drone pilot did not verify which officer would serve as the observer, nor did he explain what his exact duties were. With the drone pilot’s eyes on the video display on his controlling device, it was the responsibility of the observer to always keep eye contact with the drone. However, the observer was instead watching the visual display most of the time and not the drone itself.