Wiki Ninja

Tragic RC Helicopter Death in Brooklyn Park


This picture is a frame from a prior FPV flight conducted (safely) by the victim.

A 19-year-old model helicopter enthusiast was killed Thursday when a toy helicopter he was flying struck him in the head, a law-enforcement official said.

This is really sad. I cannot fathom being the father standing next to him.

Pilot culture can appear slightly morbid from the outside. We tend to reflect on and rehash accidents more than non-pilots. I think reflections like this are good for safety culture in amateur UAVs too.

I recently constructed carbon/XPS blade-guards for my 20 lb hex... Sometimes during the tedious machining I doubted it was worth the time.

Some may cite the kinetic energy danger in a helicopter rotor vs. multicopters, but the longer you fly, the more likely it is you'll know someone who's had an accident on a multirotor. The more accidents we have, the more we promote the "drones are usually dangerous" misconception. Consider: this WSJ article has a QAV500 FPV video as it's lead media. Concepts distinct to you and I will be conflated by the public.

Let this incident scare you, and be careful.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • @Zedtwitz:

    No disrespect to Roman or his family. As I mentioned, I wish he had crashed into something inanimate. It would have been an expensive lesson in responsibility that just grounded him for a while, eventually making a better pilot. This was just a senseless tragedy that robbed us of that possible future Roman and traumatized everyone present.

    WSJ probably picked Roman's QAV500 video because it was the most-recent upload on his YouTube channel. Check out his final Trek700N video. Definitely an adventurous pilot. In retrospect, his description was a little foreboding: "loving it man one of the best nitros that I have ever flown with so much power".

    Unfortunately, whether he was flying behind the flight line because of pilot error or a mechanical problem, the failure was probably ultimately his. Personally, I find it more comforting and helpful to think of this as foreseeable and preventable. I'm not trying to assign blame, it just feels better to think of myself as being in control of my craft.

    I think the lesson here is that we need to be skilled in the air, on the flight line, and on the bench.

    In other words, know your craft, people.

  • I hate to say it, but if you watch the video that headlines the WSJ article (the victim flying his QAV500) a few things are obvious:

    1. The craft is badly tuned, bordering on being out-of-control.
    2. One or more of the motor bearings are loud enough to be heard over the props, meaning they probably about to fail.
    3. The pilot is in no great hurry to get the craft down and correct either of these problems.

    I'm sure he was a great guy, but he was careless, and a crash was probably inevitable. It would have been far better if he had crashed into something inanimate, but at least he only killed himself and not an innocent bystander.

  • @Jared:

    You're an exception. Sure there are occasional people who one way or another will manage to fly a big r/c heli without first developing any real skill or knowledge. But even in your case, you had to at least be conscious enough to get an APM installed and working, no small feat for most people.  The fact is, as anyone who has been around serious helis for a while knows, that for most folks there is a steep learning curve to climb before getting into the air for more than about ten seconds. The exact opposite is the case with many of the newer "turnkey" multirotors. Getting some of  these airborne requires no skill whatsoever. They can maim and kill. That's a bit of a rough combination.

    The warning here has nothing to do with the cause of this particular tragedy. Rather the warning is about coming to the false conclusion from this accident that overall multirotors are somehow safer than traditional helis.

  • The point of having this Blog here at all is to cause us to reflect on the importance of safety.

    The vehicles we use are often dangerous, some a lot more so than others, big helis and big multicopters are essentially all flying lawn mowers with no safety guards.

    In there own way these things need to be treated with the same amount of respect you'd treat a high power rifle or a shotgun, or a race car or a skill saw.

    Any of these things can easily kill you or damage you severely for just doing something slightly wrong.

    Unfortunately, familiarity often results in a secondary carelessness, we are now familiar with our machine and think we understand what it will do next - until it doesn't.

    In our RC hobby, we often get away with this more times than not,or the result is just a bit of blood and a few stitches.

    Sometimes we are not so lucky.

    One of the good things about big helis is that they are genuinely scary, noisy and seriously dangerous looking.

    Of course when you become an ace pilot of these with many hours you can lose that fear.

    Multis are even worse though, many of them, even big ones are deceptively quiet and stable looking.

    However it is important to realize that with their razor sharp carbon fiber blades you basically have an upside down multi bladed kitchen blender looking for something to shred - preferably you.

    The first crop of multis had the advantage of low power, lots of foam and light weight (Parrot) for instance and there are now some tiny and really safe ones like the Traxxas or ladybug.

    But the consumer grade ones of these are growing by leaps and bounds literally and I would not want a Blade 350, DJI Phantom or Iris falling out of the sky and landing on my head whether the blades were turning or not.

    And these are easily usable by completely untrained people in their own back yards.

    It is virtually certain that much carnage is going to result as we see more and more less and less qualified people using these.

    It definitely behooves us to get in front of this a bit and to start establishing some realistic and useful safety guidelines that people might actually use.

    They need to be relatively few, very simple and not so restrictive that people will be unwilling to actually follow them.

    They also genuinely need to understand the potentially disastrous consequences of ignoring them. 

  • This guy was like the AMA poster baby he was better than anyone will ever be on this entire website at 3d

    ....That doesnt make it any safer. Especially at close quarters.

    and you mar his memory with squabbling its almost 100% certain this death was due to mech failure.

    ...I had a mechanical failure today too. I wasnt flying 3D. It did not kill me. So what can we conclude?

    People can die driving a car do we argue over how unsafe they are nope!

    ...I call strawman on that statement.

    There is no escaping it - flying extreme 3D with a gasser 800 only a few feet away is more dangerous than FPV'ing or even park flying a quad a few hundred feet away.

  • i do not agree, when i first learned to fly 3d helis i had a blade CP pro with carbon rods and a tail gyro, it was increadibly difficult to fly, i bought a APM connected it up and slowly messed around with the settings, not flyign more than two inches off the ground till the thing flew well.

    it took about 2 hours to setup and it flew brilliantly, i had no experience in flying helis and thee most that happened was shattered rotor blades which i just replaced.

  • Jared, any newbie attempting to install an APM onto a tradheli, thinking it will allow them to fly without any assistance, well, it'll never get off the ground.

    After it has been properly set up, the tradheli is super easy to fly with APM.  But getting it to that point is not easy, you have to know what you're doing.

    Every newbie trying to build their first quad unassisted, well they all crash on their first take off.  With a quad, you replace a few props and try again.  With a heli, it completely destroys itself the first time, and then you're done.

  • @bluesky, this argument is completely void, ANyone can buy a heli , assemble it and fly with little flight experience because  you can put an APM into helis which makes them just as docile and easy to fly

  • I am in deep grief and full of sorrow for this misshapen :(  

  • @Blusky1:

    I have no idea how you could so badly misinterpret what I wrote. I said nothing whatsoever to disrespect the victim of this tragedy. To the contrary, a major point was that folks who fly big helis are by  definition likely to be safer than others just because it takes a lot of skill to fly them in the first place. I also said nothing about the cause of this accident. And I squabbled with no one, at least not until now when you have forced this response to your statements.

This reply was deleted.