Local media has reported that a car accident was allegedly caused by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or drone) that crashed into a moving vehicle. The car accident took place on the R539 Schoemanskloof Road in Nelspruit on 19 November.
It has been established however, that a commercial crop spraying drone operation was taking place in a field adjacent to the road where the accident occurred, and that no drone collided with the vehicle.
The Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa (CUAASA) has been in contact with the drone operator who is certified by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). CUAASA received the drone flight logs and confirmed the crop spraying drone to have operated at approximately 800 metres from the road, in an automated grid pattern. However, the driver of the vehicle may well have had a clear view of the drone operating in the field, given the terrain in the area.
The CEO of the drone operation said the drone crew reported seeing a large cloud of dust at the road from where they were, and manually flew the drone closer to the road to inspect what had happened. The drone pilot observed the scene through a first-person view (FPV) camera and flew the drone back to the area of operation to continue the automated flights.
CUAASA that the flight log shows the 33-flight operation which took place for just under four hours between 09:28 and 13:26, with only one manual flight having taken place for three minutes between 12:29 to 12:38 on one of the flight legs.
CUAASA also confirmed that this operation was conducted within SACAA regulatory and safety protocols and that the drone pilot had full control of the drone before, during and after the reported time of the accident. The flight data further shows the drone having flown no further than 80 meters from the road.
A spokesperson for the company where the driver is employed, confirmed to CUAASA that he has serious injuries and is still in hospital.
According to CUAASA, at this point it is believed that no further investigation into whether a drone caused the accident will take place.