We have seen a fantastic visualization that shows us the chaos a single drone can cause when flying near an airport. But what would happen if a drone actually hit an airplane? Researchers at the University of Dayton Research Institute teamed up with Sinclair College National UAS Training and Certification Center to find out. In this video from Aviation International News, you can see what happens to both the drone and the airplane when they collide in mid-air.
Experts believe that a serious collision between a drone and a commercial aircraft is no longer a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.” Tests on bird strikes have been conducted for decades, but with hundreds of thousands of drones out there, now is the time to test the damage they could cause. So, the researchers performed a series of tests in controlled conditions. They simulated a flight of a general aviation aircraft and examined what would happen if it got hit a recreational drone in mid-air.
For the tests, the team used a DJI Phantom 2 and crashed it into an airplane wing at the speed of 238 mph. The drone completely penetrated the airplane’s wing and caused a substantial amount of damage. The researchers believe that, at these conditions, the airplane would survive the damage. However, with faster aircraft, there would be more damage.
The team compared the impact of a drone with the damage a similar-sized bird would cause. Worry not, no birds were harmed – a gel projectile was used to simulate the impact. The results showed that a bird would crush the leading edge of the wing. But unlike the drone, the bird wouldn’t cause any internal damage.
As the drone population increases, the chance of collisions between drones and airplanes increases too. And now that some drones are about to be allowed near airports, it could potentially increase the chances of incidents even further. Kevin Poormon of the University of Dayton Research Institute proposes a solution to minimize the risks. He believes that the drones should be constructed so that they break apart when they hit an airplane wing. This way they wouldn’t penetrate the wing and cause an internal damage that could end up in a tragedy.