Before crashes could be simulated in a computer, aircraft builders would shoot chickens at planes to determine the damage from a mid-air bird strike. This rig, built at Aalborg University in Denmark, sort of does the same thing, but instead tests the damage a drone could inflict on a human.
Aalborg University actually built an entire lab dedicated to testing and researching drone technologies. The lab now studies crashes, too, because as anyone who’s ever tried to pilot a quadcopter knows, what goes up will sometimes unexpectedly come down. And understanding how much damage a drone’s spinning propellers can inflict on humans will allow them to be designed to be safer in the future.
Aalborg University’s unusual 3m long test rig can fire a drone at a test subject — which in this case is a raw pork roast — at speeds of around 53km per hour. The impact is captured by a high speed camera running at 3000 frames per second which allows researchers to study how deep the blades cut into the flesh, but also how they warp and break when they suddenly stop spinning.
The results could help engineers design drone propellers that still provide adequate lift, but at the same time easily break apart on impact to prevent injury or damage. Popping on a replacement propeller blade after a crash takes seconds, but a gash on someone’s arm will take weeks to slowly heal.