FAA Says Drones Damage Airplanes More Than Bird Strikes

Nov 30, 2017

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The FAA released new research showing that collisions with drones cause more damage to airplanes than bird strikes do. This comes after more and more reports of near misses between drones and airplanes. Even though the drones are small, constructed of mainly plastic and only weigh a few pounds, the research showed that when a drone enters an engine it can cause more damage than if a similar-sized bird were to do the same thing.

Aircraft are designed to withstand a bird strike of up to 4 pounds to the windscreen and 8 pounds to the fuselage. The study concluded that a drone of similar size would cause more damage than the bird.

The “Miracle on the Hudson” flight crashed into the Hudson River due to a bird strike hitting its engines.

Fortunately, Gerardo Olivares, a researcher at Wichita State University who worked on the study, said that an impact on the plane’s fuselage with a drone wouldn’t be catastrophic. Although, if a drone entered a jet engine at lower speeds, its lithium ion battery would have a chance of surviving, which could lead to an increased risk of a battery fire or explosion.

Both a 2.7-pound quad copter or a 4-pound fixed-wing model could still cause serious damage to the aircraft’s tail fins on a narrow-body aircraft like a Boeing 737. An animation from the FAA shows an example of a crash:

The FAA says that there’s an average of 250 drone safety incidents every month, a 50% increase over last year. It’s illegal to fly a drone with five miles of an airport unless you warn the airport and air traffic control beforehand.

The research, commissioned by the FAA and carried out by four universities, took place over the last 14 months and examined the effects on large passenger jets down to smaller private jets.

While only 838,000 people registered their drones with the FAA, the agency estimates that 2.3 million devices will be purchased in 2017 alone.

H/T: Bloomberg

Featured image by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

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