How can a drone cause so much chaos

Views: 485 Author: Jane Wakefield Publish Time: Origin: BBC NEWS

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), can be controlled remotely and film footage

What is a drone?

The term "drone" for some prompts images of airstrikes - but the sophisticated flying robots used on the battlefield are unlikely to be what we are talking about here.

The vast majority of unmanned aerial vehicles(UAV) are actually small, remote-controlled quadcopters used by hobbyists and photographers.

These small devices are now a mainstream gadget, which can cost from under £40 to several thousands of pounds.

Drones are also increasingly being used in industries such as construction and retail.

What damage can a drone cause an aircraft?

In October 2017, a drone collided with a commercial aircraft in Canada, striking one of the plane's wings. The plane sustained minor damage but was able to land safely.

A drone could damage an aircraft

Research on drone damage to aircraft is still limited but a number of institutions have tested a variety of impact scenarios and each seems to reach a different conclusion.

Tests conducted at the University of Dayton in the US mimicked a mid-air collision between a 2.1lb (1kg) quadcopter and a commercial aircraft travelling at 238mph (383km/h) and appeared to show it inflicting major damage.

Other research from the Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned aircraft system through research Excellence (Assure) in conjunction with the US's Federal Aviation Authority suggested drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision and the lithium-ion batteries that power them may not shatter upon impact, instead of becoming lodged in airframes and posing a potential risk of fire.

Ravi Vaidyanathan, a robotics lecturer at Imperial College, London, told the BBC: "The threat posed to larger aircraft by drones is small but not negligible.

"The probability of a collision is small but a drone could be drawn into a turbine.

"A drone greater than 2kg might break the cockpit windshield as well for certain aircraft."

Martin Lanni, chief executive of airspace security company Quantum Aviation, said: "A drone looks quite fragile but the battery is hefty and if you compare a drone to a bird, then it could be potentially more dangerous if it goes through the engine or hits the fuselage."

According to the UK Airprox Board, there were 92 instances of aircraft and drones coming close to colliding in 2017.


How can airports protect themselves?

In the UK, legislation came into force in July, making it illegal to fly a drone within 1km (0.62 miles) of an airport. It is also illegal to fly a drone higher than 400ft (120m).

But experts have pointed out that this could be ineffective, given that a landing aircraft would fly below 400ft. And of course, those with malicious intent would have little regard for legislation.

A Force-landed Drone

Systems have been tested in some prisons, where drones are often used to smuggle in goods, which aim to block radio signals within a certain area in order to prevent drones from landing.

More technologies are being introduced.DJI, the world leader in making civilian drones, introduced geofencing systems in its products in 2013. This technology can prevent drones from flying in some locations and offers warnings to drone operators flying near a restricted zone.

Whatever happens in the case of the drone issue, the government authorities shall be forced to consider the related situation seriously.


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