Sarah Nilsson JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah NilssonJD, PhD, MAS

UAS Risky Bu$ine$$?

FAA Update - March 2022

The risk of midair collisions between drones and traditional aircraft is greatest when they both share the same airspace. The belief that traditional aircraft only operate at altitudes above 500 feet is a common misconception among drone pilots. The regulation that establishes the minimum flying altitude for traditional aircraft is published in 14 CFR § 91.119. Except for takeoff and landing, most fixed-wing aircraft typically operate above 500 feet. However, this is not the case with helicopters. Helicopters often fly below 400 feet and routinely share the same airspace as their drone counterparts.

The FAA has investigated six confirmed midair collisions between drones and helicopters. The most recent collision occurred on Oct. 10 in Palmer, Alaska. A Robinson R-44 helicopter conducting a scenic flight tour of the Knik Glacier with a pilot and three passengers collided with a DJI drone operated by a recreational flyer. According to the helicopter pilot, about 10 minutes into the flight, he was flying at an altitude below 100 feet where the Knik Glacier drains into Knik Lake. At this point, he heard a sharp sound and felt a thud under his seat. The pilot believed he might have struck a bird.

During the post-flight inspection, the pilot noted damage to the main rotor blade. The tour company received a call from the drone owner alleging the helicopter had flown into his drone, and he wanted it replaced. The tour company’s maintenance team determined the damaged rotor blade was no longer airworthy and required replacement. The estimated cost of replacement was $60,000.

Fortunately, no injuries resulted from this encounter. Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that collisions between drones and helicopters do occur in the airspace they share. The FAASTeam collaborates with several influential DronePros to develop recommended practices for drone pilots to reduce the collision risk.



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FAA - UAS Sightings Report 


International Helicopter Safety Team - Learn how to implement an SMS Program


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What the US can learn.pptx
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Thesis - Josh Hundley.pdf
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UAS Handbook 2 revised 033115.pdf
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Insect-sized drones

The following excerpt from "The Future of Violence" by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum.


You walk into your shower and find a spider. You are not an arachnologist. You do, however, know that the tiny crawling octopod could be, at a minimum, one of FOUR things.


1. The spider could be real and harmless.


2. The spider could be real and venomous.


3. It could, conversely, be a personal surveillance spider, purchased from "Drones R Us" for $49.95 and set loose by your next-door neighbor, who dislikes your noisy dog and is monitoring the spider on her iPhone form a sports bar downtown. The pictures of you undressed, taken by the spider, are now being relayed on several screens during a break in an NFL game at a local bar for the neighborhood's amusement.


4. You also harbor some small, perhaps paranoid concern about a more menacing possibility: your business competitor may have just sent a drone attack spider, purchased from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. There has been a rash of these killings in recent years, by organized crime and even by some ruthless elements of the business world. Upon spotting you with its sensors, before you have time to weigh your options, the spider - if it is, indeed, an attack spider - shoots an infinitesimally thin needle into your left leg and takes a blood sample. As you beat a retreat out of the shower, your competitor tests the sample on his smartphone for a DNA match to ascertain your identity. He compares the blood sample against a DNA profile of you that is already on file at (Everything about Everybody), an international DNA database (with access available for $179.99). Once the match is confirmed, (a matter of seconds), the spider will follow you into your bedroom, pausing only long enough to dart another needle, this time containing a lethal dose of a synthetically produced poison. Your assassin, who is on a summer vacation in Provence, will then direct his spider under the crack of your bedroom door and out of the house and initiate its  self-destruct function. No tract of the spider will ever be found by law enforcement authorities. 



micro air vehicle (MAV), or micro aerial vehicle, is a class of Miniature UAVs that has a size restriction and may be autonomous. Modern craft can be as small as 15 centimetres. 

PlayStation mentality refers to the disassociation between combatants and the consequences of their actions, as a result of the use of weapon interfaces which resemble video games. The effect is named after the PlayStation games console, and is commonly cited in discussions of the problems of drone warfare, such as that conducted by the CIA in the Pakistan tribal areas, typically using predator drones.

See article below for more information

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2012 James Bond Film Skyfall

Features 007 fighting a former agent turned all-powerful hacker who is out for revenge against M, the head of M16

A subplot has M, facing a commission of inquiry for operational failures on her watch, while the hacker launches an armed attack on the hearing at which she is testifying

M gives this short speech in repsonse to her critics, contemptuously schooling her inquisitors about the state of the world she confronts...

You decide if this was a deep, forward-looking question of political theory....

where the individual actor is empowered to wreck havoc because such technology is readily available to us all...

Commercial UAV Expo.pptx
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Global sUAS Risk Management and the Law.[...]
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Sarah Nilsson, J.D., Ph.D., MAS


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