A SZ DJI Technology Co. Phantom 3 drone flies into the face of a crash test dummy during unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test experiments on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. There is little disagreement that the small- and medium-sized drones flooding the U.S. market can cause serious injury or even death in a worst-case scenario. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Drones are everywhere. The Los Angeles Police Department today got approval from a civilian review panel to deploy drone patrollers to “protect and serve” collecting data during high-risk situations or searches without risking officer safety. (No armed drones need apply.) Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration granted CNN the first waiver for unlimited drone flights above crowds. CNN and its technology partner have developed a 1.4-pound drone that supposedly “breaks into harmless smaller pieces” in a crash. Amazon, too, is doing its part, flying heroic drones through Australian skies to deliver critically-needed burritos.
Anyone who has seen “Sully” knows the danger flying objects in the flight path of an aircraft present. But Professor Javid Bayandor, director of the Crashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids Lab at Virginia Tech, told Popular Mechanics, “Impacts from drones are not the same as impact of birds…Birds can disintegrate relatively easily… A drone can be like a rock going through the engine.”
Now, what is believed to be the first collision between a commercial aircraft and a drone has taken place in North America.
On Oct. 12, a twin-prop SkyJet plane carrying six passengers was at about 1500 feet on approach to Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City, Canada. As the plane went into its final descent, the pilots saw something, then heard a bang. Informing the control tower they had hit a drone, they declared an emergency but landed safely. Damage was limited to a few scratches on the left wing.