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A Drone Crash Experience From the Pilot’s Point of View

A very conscientious pilot, Tim Strickland, recently experienced the DJI Matrice 210 he was piloting falling to the ground. The accident report he submitted is online here and the video of his accident is above.

You read my ramblings and thoughts nearly all of the time so I asked Tim to describe the crash experience in his words.

My name is Tim Strickland and I am the owner of Superior Drone Service, LLC located in NC. I am also a part-time police officer. Not only do I fly for my company, but I also fly my equipment for the local agencies in my area due to we are in a very rural area.

On Thursday, June 25, 2020, at approximately 1:30 pm, I was preparing to fly a farm that had been flooded. I was using my DJI Matrice 210 with my Zenmuse Z30 to look at other farmlands in the area.

I did my normal complete pre-flight inspection of my M-210 the props, batteries, Cendence remote and CrystalSky monitor. Everything checked out fine and my batteries were fully charged.

As I recorded my GPS location, the wind speed was 8 mph with 8 mph gust and 72% humidity.

I powered up my M210 checked the voltage on my TB55 batteries and proceeded to liftoff. Once in the air, I got up to around 100 feet and started taking pictures increasing in height as I continued around the field.

Everything was great as if every other flight I have done.

After being in the air for only 3 and a half minutes, I heard a loud flapping noise coming from my M-210. At this time, my M210 was only about 700 feet away from me and about 265 feet in the air.

I looked at my screen and did not see anything unusual at which time I looked my M-210 which appeared to move away from me.

I tried to fly it back but the aircraft did not respond, so I hit the RTH button and got no response.

At this time, it started to fall to the ground and I felt helpless. It appeared as though it was just falling but after going back and reviewing the flight path on the CrystalSky I learned some additional facts. The flight recording showed my altitude as well as speed, battery percentage. It also showed a high wind warning which I did not see during the flight and it showed where I hit the RTH button. It also showed that my altitude was 269 feet and when hitting the ground it was traveling at 53mph.

The first thing after the crash, I went to the site of the crash and took pictures from all angles with my cell phone before touching any piece of the disaster.

In 2018, I was on a webinar with Steve Rhode and he mentioned becoming a member of the AOPA and their Pilot Protection Services.

The next day, I became a member. For you in public service, this is very similar to the PBA.

Well when this crash happened, I called Steve minutes after the crash, looking for some advice.

He urged me to use my membership and call AOPA Pilot Protection Services for legal advice in which I did. Because of my benefits with the AOPA Pilot Protection Services program, they connected me with an aviation attorney licensed in my state.

There was no charge for the consultation. After speaking with an attorney, he answered a lot of my questions and he didn’t find any issues I needed to avoid when contacting the insurance company to file the claim on the total loss of my Matric 210.

I had coverage for the aircraft and the cameras on it.

My drone crashed just four days after Steve posted his warnings on the Matrice 210 and I never thought it would happen to me.

My best advice to my fellow public safety pilots is please don’t take anything for granted when it comes to UAS operation.

This can happen with no warning and it is nothing you can do.

Steve has been great staying in communication with me throughout this entire process and has offered great advice.

Will my business survive is in question now. I guess it comes down to the insurance company to see. This equipment is/was mine purchased by me as well as my DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Let’s hope the insurance company honors it’s policy to the fullest.

Good Luck to you all and be careful with the M-210.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy.
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