Drones are quickly coming up as the next it technology. While they are still nascent, their use and implementation is quickly growing. As is to be expected from something that flies around in the sky, they do come with their fair share of risks. Towards understanding and mitigating this risk, the UK Government has started a program that will understand the effect of drone collisions with passenger planes. How? Why by crashing them of course.
The United Kingdom government has ordered the Department of Transport (DoT), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to establish the effects of a collision between a consumer quadcopter drone and a commercial passenger jet. The government has also set apart a sum of £250,000 (around $304,000) to pay for these tests.
The tests will be carried out by the UK defence technology company Qinetiq. You don’t have to worry about bits and pieces of drones raining down upon your heads though, as a 5,000 sq mile area of restricted airspace in Snowdonia, Wales, has been set apart for this purpose.
Drone-Plane collisions is a prospect that is causing people grave worries. Considering that drone usage is slated to rise in the future, and considering that these unmanned vehicles will be sharing the airspace with commercial as well as passenger planes, there is definitely reason for worry. Pilots have been expressing concerns about scenarios where the drones could shatter windscreens or be sucked into plane engines, leading to explosions.
Admittedly, neither of them are pleasant prospects and until the results in case such an event does occur — and ways of making sure that they don’t — are firmly established, it will be hard to utilize the abilities of these unmanned fliers to their fullest potential. And hence the attempts to discover the effects of such an event.
Speaking on the topic, an aviation expert within the MoD said,
We are conducting mid-air collision studies for the CAA to look at impact of aircraft with unmanned vehicles. There is a series of trials about the security risks and we need to continue this with a commercial study. There will be further studies of mid-air collisions of drone impact with fuselage and windows.
The time is certainly ripe. There are already as many as 2 million drones in the country and there have already been plenty of close calls. Indeed, the CAA has had to investigate as many as 23 near misses between drones and aircraft in a six-month period — a seriously worrying number when you consider that any of these accidents could have led to serious damage.