Drone Manufacturer: DJI
Drone Model: Mavic Pro
Country: United States of America
Pilot Qualifications: Unknown Status
Pilot Flight Experience: Unknown Hours
Link to External Information About This submission: https://data.ntsb.gov/carol-repgen/api/Aviation/ReportMain/GenerateNewestReport/98040/pdf
File Uploaded: None
The hot air balloon was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as a commercial passenger sightseeing flight, under visual flight rules, within Class G airspace. The pilot saw the sUAS (drone) maneuvering in the area just prior to the collision. There was no opportunity or ability for the balloon pilot to avoid the drone. There was no evidence of any mechanical or software problems with the drone relevant to the flight. The pilot did not report any anomalies, and his narrative was in general agreement with the recorded logs and video. The drone operated as expected at all times. The Active Track feature occasionally lost lock on the camera target (the balloon), however, that was not unexpected given the nature of how the tracking feature operates and the visual appearance of the balloon envelope. The drone control app correctly and appropriately warned the pilot of the loss of Active Track lock. The drone remained connected with the remote controller and was controllable by the pilot at all times. The drone pilot initiated his flight within 5 miles of an airport without notifying the airport authority, contrary to the provisions of 14 CFR 101.41. The drone pilot was unaware of safe operating practices developed by any community-based model aircraft organization, and unaware of the requirement in 14 CFR 101.41 to at all times give way to manned aircraft. The pilot’s flying skills were not sufficient to operate in proximity to another aircraft, namely the balloon, and he flew in proximity without coordination with the balloon pilot. The DJO GO control app gave the pilot numerous indications of losing track on the Active Track feature and initiation of Obstacle Avoidance feature, however, he continued to fly in close proximity to the balloon.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be: the drone pilot’s decision to fly without pre-coordination, and without the requisite skills and knowledge, to maneuver the drone in close proximity to another aircraft.