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Researchers shot a drone at a plane to study a simulated mid-flight impact

By Cal Jeffrey · 9 replies
Oct 16, 2018
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  1. There has been much concern expressed over what is being termed “malicious drone use” lately. Earlier this month Congress passed a bill allowing the government to shoot down any drone it deems a “credible threat.” Likewise, AT&T has been working with a drone detection startup called Dedrone to detect and combat malicious drones near military bases, venues, and businesses.

    Some of the concern is undoubtedly based on aircraft with cameras being somewhere that cameras are not permitted — a military base is a good example. However, there is also some concern over drones flying too close to larger manned aircraft, which could endanger lives.

    The University of Dayton's Impact Physics group recently performed an experiment to see what would happen if a small drone were to strike a plane’s wing at cruising speeds. The test was prompted by reports of a collision between a helicopter and a quadcopter. The drone was of course destroyed, but more interestingly the helicopter sustained very little damage and was able to continue flying.

    Researchers were curious if a collision with a faster-moving aircraft would have a similar outcome. As you can see from the video of the experiment above, the plane did not fair as well as the helicopter.

    Instead of shattering on impact as the researchers expected, the drone tore through the wing like a bullet. In fact, the collision happens so fast that it indeed looks like they shot the Mooney M20 with a gun — until the footage is slowed down.

    Instead of firing a bullet the experimenters launched a drone at 238mph to simulate the M20’s cruising speed.

    “While the quadcopter broke apart, its energy and mass hung together to create significant damage to the wing,” said Kevin Poormon, lead researcher for Impact Physics at Dayton.

    The experiment proves that drone/aircraft collisions are a severe threat. If a drone could plow through a wing like that, think of what would have happened were it to have impacted the cockpit.

    While the government’s virtual carte blanche authority to shoot down drones without due process will remain a controversial issue, there are still reasonable safety concerns over drones sharing the skies in certain areas.

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  2. Lew Zealand

    Lew Zealand TS Guru Posts: 438   +324

    3 more tests needed, quadcopter crash into prop (small aircraft), qc crash into cockpit (@250 and 500MPH), qc crash into jet engine.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  3. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,340   +592

    It seems to me that it would be an unnecessary expense to crash it into a jet engine because it surely would disable it if not worse. Such an experiment would mainly serve to see how bad it could be not if it would be bad.
  4. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Guru Posts: 354   +352

    Well they test bird strikes against engines so why not drones. Would be interesting to see if nothing else.
  5. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,340   +592

    If the University of Dayton can afford to destroy a jet engine just to show something interesting, more power to them.
  6. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,576   +3,752

    Well, they'd likely just destroy the engine, then raise their tuitions, particularly on the engineering students . All those wannabe whatevers, would be paying that engine off via their student loans for the rest of their lives...:eek:

    FWIW, I used to fly radio control fixed wing aircraft. The story we were told, is that that an ordinary trainer, (4 or 5 pounds), flying 35 MPH, would hit a person with the same kinetic energy as a 45 caliber bullet.

    Inertia is a reciprocal of mass times velocity. In other words, a 1 pound object traveling 10 mph, has the same energy as a 10 pound weight, going 1 mph. (AFAIK)

    Some guys with money really get into the RC hobby, and jet engines are available that will push an airplane to 160+ MPH.

    Yet you don't hear of any problems from radio hobbyists.

    It's not until they make things like today's drones available to today's ma**holes, that problems arise.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
    senketsu likes this.
  7. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,576   +3,752

    Anybody with any common sense would know a drone would do the same thing to a jet engine, as would a seagull.

    It would be kind of stupid and wasteful to destroy a million (or so), dollar jet engine, to prove what should already be a foregone conclusion. Dontcha think?

    Besides, your basic quad-copter isn't going to reach anywhere close to the cruising altitude of an airliner. Airport security and radar should be on a drone and its pilot, before it gets anywhere near the runway flight path.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  8. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 690   +331

    Do it with Boeing now!
  9. Modern large planes hold fuel in the wings
  10. Can the people do the same, if it violates their personal airspace?

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