If you’ve done any flying with recreational drones, you’ll know there are some places you simply cannot fly with them. Some places, like military bases, are restricted for national security reasons. But others, like airports, are restricted because drones can cause major damage to aircraft if they collide.
How much damage? It depends on what and where. Researchers have been studying various forms of theoretical collisions, including what happens if a drone collides with a plane’s nose cone or gets sucked into its engine. Now, a group of scientists attempted to explore the dangers of a wing collision by recreating one in the lab. Researchers from the University of Dayton loaded a standard recreational drone into a cannon, fired it at a plane wing and observed the carnage that resulted.
The drone was destroyed by the collision, but managed to hold together enough to impact the wing as a single object, instead of multiple pieces. That increases the amount of damage suffered by the airplane wing, and means bad news for any plane that collides with a drone.
In particular, the drone damaged the wing’s main spar, which didn’t happen when they tested the same setup with a simulated bird impact. “The bird did more apparent damage to the leading edge of the wing, but the Phantom [drone] penetrated deeper into the wing and damaged the main spar, which the bird did not do,” said study leader Kevin Poormon in a press release.
This study helps pilots and the FAA better quantify exactly what kind of dangers drones pose to aircraft. Fortunately no drone has ever collided with an airplane, but that means it’s not clear just what damage they could cause. This research proves that drones are at least as deadly as regulators have suspected, meaning those inconvenient restrictions placed on drone pilots are definitely justified.
Source: University of Dayton
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics