FAA warns drones more damaging than bird strikes to planes

Drones that collide with planes cause more damage than birds of the same size because of their solid motors, batteries and other parts, a study released by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday found.

Drones that collide with planes cause more damage than birds of the same size because of their solid motors, batteries and other parts, a study released by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday found.

The study’s researchers say aircraft-manufacturing standards designed for bird strikes aren’t appropriate for ensuring planes can withstand collisions with drones. The FAA said it will depend on drone makers to help develop technology to detect and avoid planes.

Reports of close calls between drones and airliners have surged. The FAA gets more than 250 sightings a month of drones posing potential risks to planes, such as operating too close to airports.

Canadian officials say a drone hit a small charter plane carrying eight people last month over Quebec City, the first such incident in Canada. The plane landed safely.

A team of researchers from four universities used computers to simulate collisions between drones weighing 2.7 to 8 pounds and common airliners and business jets. In some cases, drones would have penetrated the plane’s skin.

The researchers said the drone collisions inflict more damage than striking a bird of the same size and speed because drone components are much stiffer — birds are composed mostly of water.

The researchers said that drone manufacturers could reduce the potential risks if they used less metal in their devices. The research also highlights the need for automated systems on drones that sense other aircraft and move out of the way, they said.

The FAA estimates that 2.3 million drones will be bought for recreational use this year, and the number is expected to rise in coming years. Many other drones are used for commercial purposes including news photography and inspections of pipelines, power lines and cell towers.

SZ DJI Technology, the world’s largest civilian drone maker, issued an emailed statement praising the report. DJI’s Phantom 3 was the copter used in the study.

DJI said it already employs several of the methods suggested in the report to keep its devices away from planes, such as automatically halting flights that try to go too high or that stray into prohibited zones. It’s also adding sensors that trigger when aircraft approach.

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