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Did a drone take down SC helicopter? The answer could make history.

A helicopter crash landing near Charleston this week might have been caused by a drone, which an insurance industry news site says would be the first drone-related crash of a U.S. aircraft.
A helicopter crash landing near Charleston this week might have been caused by a drone, which an insurance industry news site says would be the first drone-related crash of a U.S. aircraft. AP

A helicopter crash landing near Charleston this week might have been caused by a drone, which an insurance industry news site says would be the first drone-related crash of a U.S. aircraft.

Charleston’s Post and Courier quoted a police incident report that said a private helicopter instructor was giving a lesson to a client Wednesday when “a white ‘DJI Phantom quad-copter drone’ was headed into their air space.” The instructor took control of the helicopter and attempted evasive maneuvers but the chopper’s tail hit a tree, causing him to lose control.

The Robinson R22 helicopter landed on the rear of its landing skids, then turned onto its side, the report said. No injuries were reported, news accounts say.

The Insurance Journal reported that, if confirmed, the incident would be the first drone-related crash of a U.S. aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t confirmed the possible role of the drone, the publication reported, but the National Transportation Safety Board is gathering information on the case.

The report comes as aviation groups are pressing for tighter regulations on civilian drones following reports of near-collisions with aircraft.

Last June a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police helicopter, flying in the dark at 100 mph, nearly hit a drone over BB&T Ballpark, which was crowded with fans. The drone flew within 20 feet of the helicopter, whose pilots had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with it.

In 2016, Charlotte police arrested a drone pilot who they said purposely flew a drone near a police helicopter as it tracked a suspect.

A drone crashed into a commercial airplane in Canada last October, becoming the first such incident in North America. The plane, which held six passengers and two crew members, had only minor damage and landed safely.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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