Unmanned aerial vehicles are a hot selling product. Almost anyone can buy one of these pieces of aircraft. You can find drones that can be considered toys, while other more serious pieces of equipment could be a threat. Drones can be as dangerous as birds. After knowing this, we might wonder, can drones be a threat to planes.
Drones can hit a plane if you fly them in airports. If the drone strikes a plane, it can damage some external components, including the engine's turbines, sensors, antennas, and wings, causing the plane to lose control.
That's the main reason why most drones systems don't allow you to fly to nearby airports. While the chances of your drone hitting an airplane are very slim, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with it.
Understanding Planes And Drones
Planes and drones barely meet each other, but there is a probability they can. It could happen, especially when an aircraft is descending or taking off. Let's find out more information about planes and what drones can damage external parts.
Understanding Planes External Components.
Airplanes usually transport people or other valuable objects. Pilots are responsible for maneuvering the plane properly. But most inconveniences happen during takeoff and landing because the pilots have less time to react.
Some of the external components that can be affected by drones and compromise the safety of the aircraft include:
- The engines
Most airplanes have two engine turbines. Engines are an essential component because they keep the plane flying and moving forward. If one of the turbines gets damaged, the pilot will have to land the aircraft. If both turbines shut down, the pilot will perform an emergency landing.
- The vertical stabilizer
The vertical stabilizer is located in the back of the plane. It helps it to balance the center of gravity of the aircraft. Many planes will be able to fly if the vertical stabilizer has been slightly affected. But, if, for some reason, a plane loses this piece, it will nosedive.
The wings help to keep the plane balanced. If one of the wings breaks, the aircraft will lean sideways. Other minor components are located in the wings, such as the ailerons, spoilers, and flaps. These three are moving parts that could come off.
Understanding How Drones Can Damage A Plane
Drones are flying objects made out of plastic and metal. A drone moving towards an ascending or descending plane can be ingested by the turbines.
Most aircraft can deal with birds up to 2 kg. But a drone is not a bird; plastic is very different from flesh and feathers. The turbine can destroy a mourning dove without batting an eye. While most consumer drones weigh around 1.2 kg, the blades and inner parts can damage the engines.
The University of Dayton Research Institute made a test with a 13.8 kg drone striking against a plane wing. At more than 200 mph, the drone seriously damaged the wing. It ripped it open so quickly that the naked eye couldn't perceive it.
Even though you can find some viral videos showing how planes get hit by drones, there have been just a few confirmed instances. Most of the videos online are well-crafted pieces of special effects, or in simple words, fake.
How Drones Affect Other Aircrafts
Planes are not the only aircraft that a drone can damage. There have been incidents involving helicopters, hot air balloons, and autogyros.
It can happen when the drone operator is inexperienced or doesn't pay attention to its surroundings. Also, the operator may lose control of the UAV.
For instance, one documented case about a drone hitting a helicopter involves an operator who lost control over its UAV. The pilot claims he noticed the drone battery was about to run out, and he requested it to return to him. After waiting a couple of minutes, he noticed the drone never came back. He thought it fell into the sea. But, in reality, his drone hit a US-Army helicopter. Fortunately, the drone didn't cause any damage to the aircraft, but it was a concerning event.
In 2018, a hot air balloon operator had an unfortunate encounter with a UAV that hit the envelope. The drone pilot ignored the alerts and lost control over the UAV. Again, the UAV didn't cause significant damages to the aircraft, but it was a case of concern.
In 2015, in Kent, England, an autogyro got too close to a drone. The pilot decided to change its course.
The Problem With Drones And Aircrafts
There are several problems with drones and aircraft are that they both use airspace. But, any existing aircraft needs to get permission before flying. Additionally, aircraft operators need to plan a route, which is not the case for drones.
In most aerial incidents with drones, you can find that the operators claim they lost control of the drone. It is a common problem, and some people worry about the impact it can have.
Some people go even further, claiming that drones should be banned. We see how it gets easier every day to have one of these toys. However, novice pilots are a liability to public safety. Additionally, some people claim drones are a threat to one's privacy or integrity. While most users buy drones for leisure, it doesn't mean that they won´t be used to spy on or maybe cause accidents to certain people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Has a drone ever caused a plane crash?
No, it has not been confirmed that a drone has caused a plane crash. However, in 2017 Quebec City police confirmed a plane had a minor collision with a drone that hit the aircraft in a wing.
Can the FAA track your drone?
The Federal Aviation Administration requires drones to broadcast their location while flying. Additionally, they will have access to the pilot's personal information.
Can a drone fly as high as a plane?
No, they can't. However, a drone can fly as high as 400 feet from the pilot, and planes need to take off and land. A drone could interfere with a landing or departing airplane.
Why are drones banned in airports?
Because drones are a liability to aircraft safety, the plane engines can pull the drone into the turbine, damaging the blades and many internal components that keep the plane stable.
Why is it dangerous to fly drones near airports?
It is dangerous to fly your drone near airports because your UAV can be hazardous to larger aircraft.
How close can drones fly to airports?
Your drone should fly at least 6 miles away from a controlled airport. But, you can operate your drone in uncontrolled airports without any problems.
What happens if you fly a drone in a no-drone zone?
Nothing will happen if you fly your drone in a no-drone zone. These areas only serve to prevent takeoff or landing of your UAV.
Final Thoughts About Drones And Planes
Drones can be a threat to the safety of a plane. They can damage some of the external components of an aircraft, causing the center of gravity to move. That's why most drones can't fly nearby airports.
Drones can also affect other aircraft such as helicopters, hot air balloons, and autogyros. Fortunately, there are no reports of casualties related to drones.
However, some people are concerned about how anyone can have access to these UAVs. While many people think that more restrictions are needed, others claim the solution is to ban them once and for all.
Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.