The “Miracle on the Hudson”—the successful ditching of a US Airways jetliner into New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after it hit a flock of geese—taught frequent flyers two things. First, it really is possible to land an aircraft on water, just as is shown on seat-back safety cards. Second, and more worryingly, the incident showed how dangerous birds can be to aircraft, particularly when they get sucked into engines. The machines are supposed to be designed to withstand an impact by the feathered creatures. Using big guns, chickens have been fired at aircraft engines in safety tests since the 1950s. But what about drones?
New research suggests that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can actually be much more damaging than birds at the same impact speed, even if they are a similar weight. The study, published by the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, a think-tank, used computer simulations to examine the impact of bird and UAV collisions in more than 180 scenarios. The researchers found that the drones’ rigid and dense materials—such as metal, plastic and lithium batteries—can put aeroplanes at much greater risk than a bird carcass. Kiran D’Souza, one of the authors, says that in every collision scenario with a drone there was at least minor damage to the plane and sometimes it was much more severe. In one case, the researchers discovered that if a drone were to hit an aircraft’s fan blades when it is operating at its highest speed, the blades could shatter and power to the engine be lost.
Category: Business and finance, Gulliver