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Have You Seen This? What happens when a drone hits an airplane

By Mary Dalrymple, KSL.com | Posted - Oct 10th, 2018 @ 1:15pm

THE CROWDED SKIES — Have you ever wondered what would happen if a drone hit an airplane?

I have, and I'm definitely not a physics expert. But when I ran the scenario in my head, I figured a drone v. plane collision would cause a lot of damage. To the drone. Planes are so much bigger and faster than drones. You (or at least I) would think that a drone would just be a little blip to them. A tiny NBD collision that is dangerous, sure, because you don't want anything interfering with your flight, but doesn't cause a whole lot of real problems.

Well, I was wrong. In this video, researchers from the University of Dayton demonstrate what happens when a drone hits an airplane. It's a simulation, and it's a little bit technical, but the video is less than 4 minutes long and really fascinating.

"We wanted to demonstrate what the hazards are, or the risks, or potential risks are, with a drone strike on an aircraft," Kevin Poorman, one of the researchers, says in the video. "There's very little data out there to help people understand what happens."

Yesterday's Have You Seen This?

So Poorman and his team went to work to provide that data. Using a DJI Phantom 2, they simulated a collision. They loaded the drone into a compressed air cannon and launched it at the wing of a Mooney M20 at 238 mph. And the drone destroyed the wing.

As the researchers show in the video, the Phantom 2 gets bent out of shape, but it doesn't shatter apart. Instead, it penetrates the small aircraft's wing, causing a substantial amount of internal and external damage. Poorman estimates that the damage would be even greater for a faster-moving plane.

In contrast, they also simulate a bird v. plane collision, and though the "bird" causes some damage, it doesn't cause any internal damage to the plane.

So, in summary, this is why you can't fly drones near airports. It's dangerous, and not just for your drone. Enjoy the video, and remember to drone responsibly.

Mary Dalrymple

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Updated: Thursday November 15, 2018 5:36 am