The Transportation Safety Board is investigating after a York regional police drone collided with an airplane approaching Buttonville Airport in Markham last week.
Police confirmed to CityNews they had deployed a Remote Piloted Vehicle (RPV), known more commonly as a drone, as part of an investigation near the airport on August 10.
While it was being operated, the drone collided with a Cessna 172 operated by Canadian Flyers International that was attempting to land. There was an instructor and student pilot on board.
No injuries were reported and the plane was able to land without any further incidents.
In the report to Transport Canada, which was submitted eight days after the incident on August 18, it said the drone had unauthorized entry to a “controlled airspace.”
The report said the two people on board thought they had hit a large bird and “had felt a jolt that pushed them back on their seat.”
There was damage to the propeller of the aircraft and the left hand side lower nose cowling was “significantly deformed.” The drone was destroyed.
The report also said NavCanada, which operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, were not aware of the police operation of the drone at the time of the incident.
A statement from the federal agency said, “Transport Canada is reviewing information regarding this incident and the department will not hesitate to take appropriate action should we identify any safety or regulatory deficiencies.”
York police say they are currently waiting on the TSB’s investigation for more details.
Dario Matrundola, who is one of the owners of the flight school Canadian Flyers, said had the drone struck a few inches further away, both occupants could’ve been killed.
“It would have been a tragedy, it would’ve been loss of life or injuries for sure. The pilots are very lucky they were able to land the plane and avoid injuries,” said Matrundola.
Matrundola was at the airport when the plane landed and said they immediately noticed significant damage on the aircraft. He said the pilots were given no indication there was a drone in the area at the time of the midair collision.
“We don’t really get air restrictions for drones because the drones, legally, are not allowed in the certain vicinity of an airport, unless it came directly from the Ministry for approval so no one would’ve been expecting that.”
Matrundola says he was very surprised to find out the drone had been operated by York police.
“I found it was just a complete disregard for safety. I’m surprised that could happen from an establishment that is supposed to be setting the example.”
He said it will likely take several months for the plane’s extensive damage to be repaired, which he says will have a large impact on his business.