Drones can do significantly more damage than bird strikes. 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 drone penetrated deeper into the wing and damaged the main spar, which the bird did not do
study leader Kevin Poormon
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 around airports are definitely justified.
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