Menu
Drones present minimal threat to aircraft, says study

Drones present minimal threat to aircraft, says study

Using data on bird strikes, study estimates danger from consumer drones is minor

A DJI Phantom 3 drone seen during a demonstration in San Jose, California, on Nov. 17, 2015. Credit: Martyn Williams

A DJI Phantom 3 drone seen during a demonstration in San Jose, California, on Nov. 17, 2015. Credit: Martyn Williams

Just how likely is it that a drone hits an aircraft and causes a death or injury? Not very, according to research from George Mason University. The study suggests the Federal Aviation Administration could significantly loosen rules regarding private drone use and not endanger general aviation.

Citing a number of "near misses" with drones, the FAA recently began requiring pilots to register before flying their drones and agree to abide by several basic rules of the sky. Almost 400,000 pilots have registered in the last three months, the FAA said on Monday.

The FAA's requirement, covering drones weighing over 250 grams (0.55 pounds), got George Mason University research fellow Eli Dourado thinking: Just how dangerous might drones be?

He started by turning to the FAA's wildlife strike database, a voluntary database of incidents involving animal strikes with aircraft, and married that with an estimate of 10 billion birds in U.S. airspace. He looked at the amount of time the birds spend flying and where bird strikes happened. He also drew on an FAA database of the average weight per species.

The result?

"A two-kilogram drone would cause an injury once every 187 million years of continuous operation," he said.

Put another way, with a million drones in the sky flying continuously, they'd lead to an accident that would cause an injury or death once every 187 years.

"It’s pretty safe by existing aviation standards," he added. Dourado did the research with Samuel Hammond, a master's degree fellow at the university.

Dourado admits there are some limitations to his estimate. Birds are softer and more likely to get squished on impact than drones made of plastic and metal, so they might represent less of a threat. But birds are also more likely to be encountered in flocks, where the danger of having several sucked into two or more engines is greater.

Perhaps the most famous instance of this was US Airways flight 1549, which had to ditch into New York's Hudson River after numerous bird strikes took out both engines. The 2009 water landing caused several injuries, most of them minor.

The research also doesn't take into account the possibility of someone maliciously trying to hit an aircraft -- something a bird is unlikely to do, but also something that it's almost impossible to regulate against.

The takeaway from the study?

"The FAA is considering a micro UAS rule that would allow a 2kg drone to operate in more or less unregulated fashion as long as it stays away from an airport," said Dourado. "This shows it’s a pretty good approach, and we could go a bit heavier."

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags drones

Featured

Slideshows

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

​As the channel changes and industry voices deepen, the need for clarity and insight heightens. Market misconceptions talk of an “under pressure” distribution space, with competitors in that fateful “race for relevance” across New Zealand. Amidst the cliched assumptions however, distribution is once again showing its strength, as a force to be listened to, rather than questioned. Traditionally, the role was born out of a need for vendors and resellers to find one another, acting as a bridge between the testing lab and the marketplace. Yet despite new technologies and business approaches shaking the channel to its very core, distributors remain tied to the epicentre - providing the voice of reason amidst a seismic industry shift. In looking across both sides of the vendor and partner fences, the middle concept of the three-tier chain remains centrally placed to understand the metrics of two differing worlds, as the continual pulse checkers of the local channel. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable, in association with Dicker Data and rhipe, examined the pivotal role of distribution in understanding the health of the channel, educating from the epicentre as the market transforms at a rapid rate.

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel
Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar last night, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and resellers descending on The Jefferson in Auckland to kickstart 2017. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017
Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel

Arrow Electronics introduced Tenable Network Security to local resellers in Sydney last week, officially launching the distributor's latest security partnership across Australia and New Zealand. Representing the first direct distribution agreement locally for Tenable specifically, the deal sees Arrow deliver security solutions directly to mid-market and enterprise channel partners on both sides of the Tasman.

Arrow exclusively introduces Tenable Network Security to A/NZ channel
Show Comments