Drones getting sucked into the engines of aircraft is the defining nightmare scenario that has airports buying countermeasures, and the US FAA deploying an app. But what if a drone encountering a 747 wouldn’t be as bad as everyone thinks?
A new study uses data from bird strikes to try and model the frequency and severity of crashes we can expect from small quadcopters. Based on collisions with wildlife, the paper estimates we should see one damaging collision for every 1.87 million hours of UAV flight time. Incidents that cause injury or death are far less frequent than that.
Yes, drones are not birds, and a lot of the figures on the frequency of drone strikes in particular relies on some educated guesses. But ignoring everything else, a 2kg drone like a DJI Phantom getting sucked into the engine of an airliner (something that has not yet happened!) only results in injury 0.2 per cent of the time.
Based on those numbers, the FAA would be well advised to ignore the bogeyman of drone-to-aircraft strikes, and instead focus on the legitimate dangers involved with drones: hitting babies, cutting pop stars or causing idiots with shotguns to go hunting in a residential area.