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BBC resorts to clickbait

20 February 2018

Sigh... clickbait and fake news are the stock and trade of the mainstream media these days and it appears that even the (once) almighty BBC are engaged.

I refer to this story published by the BBC today.

I don't think that simply putting quotes around part of the headline provides sufficient distance from the claim that a drone made a helicopter crash. No, that's disingenuous.

So let's take a look at this bit of "news" and examine it for veracity and objectivity of reporting shall we?

Clearly, the headline implies that a drone caused a helicopter to crash... did it?

Well there was no collision. The drone didn't strike the tailrotor and put the helicopter into a torque-induced spiral. It didn't get ingested by the motor causing it to fail and stop driving the main rotors. Bits of plastic and a lithium battery didn't punch through the helicopter's canopy and disable the pilot.

So what exactly did this drone (allegedly) do to bring down a helicopter?

Well it seems that the drone merely existed. OMG, someone needs to be prosecuted!

What was the helicopter doing at the time of the crash?

Apparently it was practicing hovering 15m above a stand of trees on an island at the hands of a student pilot.

Seriously... what idiot instructor chooses to train a student to hover over a stand of trees?

Clearly this did not take place at an airport so the drone flier was not irresponsible in choosing his flying location.

We're also told that flying your drone near or below the level of trees is a *safe* thing to do because manned aircraft should not be found in such close proximity to trees or the ground -- so again, the drone flier was hardly the irresponsible party here.

And what did the drone do? It allegedly flew towards the helicopter (although it is clearly stated that the pilot's report was not independently verified so even this may not have happened).

There is no indication as to how close the drone came to the helicopter but logic and commonsense dictates that it clearly did not get very close.

If a helicopter is hovering, as claimed in the story, then any drone approaching it would be blown towards the ground by the powerful wash from the main rotor. If the pilot had simply remained in a hover, the drone would not have posed any threat at all.

What did happen however (according to the report), is that control was handed back to the idiot instructor (the one who thought it a good idea to do hover training away from an airfield and over a stand of trees) who then obviously panicked and crashed.

Why did he panic?

Perhaps he'd read all the hysteria in the mainstream media about how even the mere sight of a drone could cause catastrophic mechanical failure of his machine.

So who is responsible for this crash?

Was it the drone operator who was probably doing the right thing by flying well away from airports and well below the 400 foot mandated maximum altitude?

Was it the instructor who clearly made very bad decisions about where the flight training should be done and then proceeded to fly the helicopter into a tree?

Or was it the mainstream media whose constant stream of hysterical stories about the dangers of drones may have caused the instructor to panic at the very sight of such a craft?

Perhaps the BBC should have been a little more objective in their choice of headline. How about "Hysterical helicopter instructor hits tree after panicking"

What do readers think?

Do we really need more hysteria over drones driven by the media and endorsed by aviation industry groups such as the FAA, the ALP and air traffic controllers?

The drone pilot was doing everything right -- the instructor in this case seemed to be well out of his depth and not using best practice or commonsense -- so why are drones again being vilified?

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