back to article FAA's 'drone smash risk to aircraft' is plane crazy

US government officials' grave warnings that drones could cause a disaster above the nation's airports are overstated, a study by George Mason University has found. We're told birds are a much bigger threat to aircraft than folks' unmanned aerial systems (UASs). "We estimate that 6.12 x 10−6 collisions will cause damage to an …

  1. Bloodbeastterror

    Yeah, tell that to the families of the dead. Bird strike - happenstance. Drone strike - the act of a careless scumbag who thinks that it's fun to fly his (sic) drone in flightpaths.

    1. Sir Alien

      Thing is that there does not need to be any new laws for "drones" which is simply another word jumping onto the hype train. Many countries already have laws governing hobby aircraft and where/when/how they can operate.

      "ANY" model aircraft whether fitted with a camera or not, is not allowed to fly within a set radius of an airport or critical location (e.g. large packed stadium). This is just one example.

      Yes, drones are more likely to attract the idiot with no clue than a model airplane but those idiots can be prosecuted or arrested under existing laws for doing something monumentally stupid. So this drone licensing and other rubbish is going to make no difference. It only ruins it for the ones that do know how to follow the rules.

      What next, having a license to ride your pedal powered bicycle? Do we move onto a license for being able to walk? Sorry sir, I am going to have to confiscate your legs... you are not licensed to use them.

      1. Grikath

        "Many countries already have laws governing hobby aircraft and where/when/how they can operate."

        Make that all as far as I know.. Any Mintellect that flies anything in , on, or near an airport/flight path without proper authorisation is breaking a serious set of laws and regulations, and simply deserves anything the Book can throw at him ** if caught.

        The only thing that's changed is that with a drone any moron can attempt to fly one. RC controlled flight is simply no longer a rather peculiar and expensive hobby for enthousiasts. The downside to this is obvious, but nothing that the proverbial ton of bricks can't solve.

        Incidentally.. the same odds were quoted for Space Shuttles Blowing Up... So it's simply a matter of time then, isn't it?

        ** Yes, male.. girls tend to do their Stupid in other ways.

        1. MD Rackham

          Hmmm...my recollection is that the original estimates of LOC (loss of orbiter and crew) were around 1 in 250. After Challenger a review put the odds at a little worse than 1 in 100. And after Columbia it was (quietly) put at around 1 in 30, hence the retirement of the Shuttle.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But the "set radius of an airport" can get a little silly.

        Here they included the harbour (because seaplanes fly out of it), downtown (helipads) and hospitals as airports - and the rule is no drones within 5mi of an "airport" so drones are banned for 2million people in the city. And the rules don't specify what is a drone.

        If it is better to be safe than sorry, I recommend a ban on guns within 5mi of the same "airports"

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          'If it is better to be safe than sorry, I recommend a ban on guns within 5mi of the same "airports"'

          You may be using that argument as reductio ad absurdum but in fact it would be a very good thing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There should be MORE drones

        There should be more drones, and less leisure aircraft. Drones should replace most leisure aircraft.

        There should be zero reason for flying a manned flight to take aerial photography. All of that should be done by the much safer drones now. Face it, they're a tiny fraction of the weight of an aircraft, made of plastic not steel structure and stable enough to stop and hover in 10ft flat and can hold a position from GPS to within a few feet and computer monitoring means they'll automatically soft land.

        You want to fly around looking at stuff for no good reason? Get a drone, ban the hobby aircraft.

        It's all fun and games until you have to explain to the family why little Johnny got killed by a Cessna instead of a slight bruise by a Phantom!

        For airports, exclusion zones in the software take care of the plane risk. A jet flying at 39,000 ft is nowhere near a drone flying at 1000 ft, and so drones should be able to fly anywhere outside of commercial airspace.

        The current 120m limit in Europe is too low, it should be 10,000 ft or more. Anywhere one of those dangerous helicopters can fly, the much safer quad copter can fly. A copter needs a pilot, a drone fly itself, it is far more capable and designed for the purpose than a person is.

        The current 5km exclusion around airports enforced by drone software is too wide, if a plane can't get above 400ft by 5km from an airport, then drones are the least of its problems!

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: There should be MORE drones

          "There should be more drones, and less leisure aircraft. Drones should replace most leisure aircraft.

          There should be zero reason for flying a manned flight to take aerial photography."

          Yeah, sure, because all 'leisure' aircraft are used solely for aerial photography and for looking at stuff for no good reason. I can't imagine why they'd paint "Air Ambulance", or "RN" or "RAF" or "Police" or "Small Local Turboprop Airline" or "ILS Beacon Calibration" or "Island Hopper" or "Post Office" or "Gliding Club" or "Pilot Training" or "Development Aircraft" on the side if all they're doing is taking photos for the fun of it.

          Get real.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Get real"

            If you are so colossally retarded that you think the emergency services and commercial aviation fit into the category of 'leisure aircraft' then someone should take away your internet access for our protection.

            Really.

            1. bazza Silver badge

              Re: "Get real"

              If you are so colossally retarded that you think the emergency services and commercial aviation fit into the category of 'leisure aircraft' then someone should take away your internet access for our protection.

              If you can't understand that 'leisure aircraft' was a swipe at an unthinking idiot (you?) who thought that the only aircraft that should be in the sky is airliners at 39000ft, I suggest you seek lessons in sarcasm to save us from your poor comprehension.

              1. martinusher Silver badge

                Re: "Get real"

                >If you are so colossally retarded that you think the emergency services and commercial aviation fit into the category of 'leisure aircraft' ...

                I've been flying model sailplanes for years without a problem. (I call them 'models' but they're not really models of anything and they long since graduated from balsa and covering to spun carbon and the like.) You do get the occasional clown in a GA aircraft who thinks that low passes over a house will impress the girl or whatever but by and large GA observe a 1000' ceiling and we rarely fly at or above that height (because of the difficulty in seeing what we're flying). Helicopters know where we fly and avoid us but even then we, like other model flying fields, have a system in place to look for and warn everyone about approaching full size traffic. Should the unthinkable happen and a collision happen between a model and a full size -- its unthinkable because its never happened to my knowledge -- then the model will come off the loser; planes are built to withstand bird strikes and hitting a sailplane would be like hitting a hawk (we tend to be in the same patch of sky, BTW).

                The only people who overstate the dangers are those people who know absolutely nothing about the subject.

            2. Maventi

              Re: "Get real"

              "If you are so colossally retarded that you think the emergency services and commercial aviation fit into the category of 'leisure aircraft' then someone should take away your internet access for our protection."

              Well you did imply that restricting leisure aircraft would fix all the drone problems under 10,000ft. Given the high proportion of non-private operations in that space I'm not sure what your logic is here, except for maybe a bit of a chip on the shoulder.

              What I can't figure out is how drones can be seen as a total replacement for private GA aircraft. There is so little overlap in use case between the two I don't even know where start.

              For the record I own and fly a small plane, and several RC aircraft and a camera-equipped quadcopter. The plane is completely hopeless for a lot of photography work but it's a fun and quick way to move around the country, or even spend a bit of time just cruising about - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Likewise the quad isn't going to take me anywhere and it's probably the least fun of the lot to operate (relatively speaking of course). It's more of a functional tool than anything else.

              Restricting private aircraft is just pointless. Heck it's bad enough as it is today. Such aircraft are responsible for very few deaths on the ground, and being in the aircraft makes you take its location and operation a lot more seriously then when you are operating a drone from the ground.

              Finally, I think the average bugsmasher would easily win a fight with a drone. Sure it would likely be expensive and I wouldn't be happy about any such damage, but I don't live in fear of falling out of the sky because of drones either.

              In summary I suggest you find a solution that might actually solve something. Putting your name to your words would probably earn you a little more respect as well.

          2. Wommit

            Re: There should be MORE drones

            Are "Air Ambulance", or "RN" or "RAF" or "Police" or "Small Local Turboprop Airline" or "ILS Beacon Calibration" or "Island Hopper" or "Post Office" leisure aircraft? "Gliding Club" is but also subject to their own specific rule & regs.

            Perhaps you should re-read the OP, and use English this time.

          3. D@v3

            Re: bazza

            "Air Ambulance", or "RN" or "RAF" or "Police" or "ILS Beacon Calibration" or "Post Office" or "Development Aircraft"

            Not "leisure" aircraft.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There should be MORE drones

          "killed by a Cessna instead of a slight bruise by a Phantom"

          Would you be so kind as to demonstrate this slight bruising by a Phantom?

          I'm sure everyone here would like to see the outcome of a 1kg+ unpowered quadcopter landing on your head from a few hundred feet up, you know, for scientific test purposes...

      4. Turbo Beholder

        In other words, the usual: power creep.

        Wasn't it much the same deal, only a bit louder, with "ritual murders" (in U$), "intellectual property" and "harassment"? There already are all laws needed and more, but somehow an astroturf campaign of obvious lunatics to make speshul exceptions was not waved away, but promoted.

        In other words, the usual: power creep.

      5. bazza Silver badge

        "Thing is that there does not need to be any new laws for "drones" which is simply another word jumping onto the hype train. Many countries already have laws governing hobby aircraft and where/when/how they can operate."

        'Need' is a relative word. What's actually happened in the UK is that they added to the existing laws to account for the technical differences between ordinary RC model aircraft and drones. Basically, like RC model aircraft, drones were banned from being operated near people or built up areas.

        What's new though is that you can apply for and get a license to operate one in town. This is actually quite permissive. Anyone can buy and fly one as per existing RC regulations, but a suitably trained, equipped and licensed person can also operate one in town or near people under their licensed conditions (and there's a whole bunch of rules as to when, how, where, how close, etc). That is, drones can be flown in more places than previously, but only by people who are on the list of licensees and who have something to lose (their license, fines, liberty, etc) if they break the rules, and not to the detriment of people living underneath them.

        That is actually a good thing. The rules are clear, everyone wins, drones can be used in a good way, whilst transgressors get into trouble.

        Compare that to the US where, AFAIK (corrections welcome), no one really knows what the rules are, and it's being decided retrospectively in a string of court cases which are merely seeking to apply existing law rather than change the law to suit the current circumstances.

        1. nijam

          > What's actually happened in the UK is that they added to the existing laws to account for the technical differences between ordinary RC model aircraft and drones.

          Well, yes, except that it was unnecessary in the first place to include those technical details (that e.g. distinguish between drones and other RC flying vehicles).

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So this drone licensing and other rubbish is going to make no difference. It only ruins it for the ones that do know how to follow the rules.

        Oh yes it is. It offers massive opportunities for grandstanding and lots of media coverage by those who have such needs like politicians and people who care less about the risk but more about their own exposure. It'll be a brave journalist to point out that the proposals are mere duplication.

      7. The bigger, blacker box.

        @Sir Alien

        >>"ANY" model aircraft whether fitted with a camera or not, is not allowed to fly within a set radius of an airport or critical location (e.g. large packed stadium). This is just one example.

        Actually the CAA UK regulations only restrict A, C, D and E airspace for drones (and other craft) over 7Kg or having a camera (although technically any surveillance, which could mean other telemetry or even audio).

        In fact, If it's under 7Kg and doesn't have any kind of surveillance then the only rules are you must be able to see it (direct line), you're not allowed to drop anything from it, and (the kicker, which might get you) "be reasonably satisfied the flight can be safely made".

        http://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Aircraft/Unmanned-aircraft/Small-unmanned-aircraft/

      8. BillG
        Mushroom

        Beware the Dangeours Idiots

        We are all forgetting that sooner or later some idiot is going to strap some explosives onto a drone and go after an aircraft, maybe go for the cockpit windows. If they happen to get ahold of some highly dense military grade explosives then it's a whole new range of hurt.

    2. John Bailey

      "Yeah, tell that to the families of the dead."

      Name 3.

      "Bird strike - happenstance."

      "Drone strike -" The fantastical oral effluent of the clinically stupid, expressing feigned outrage and fake concern for events that have not happened.

      There.. fixed that for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't need new laws

        There don't need to be special laws for drones because existing laws already take care of it. If you are caught flying a drone in protected airspace that's already illegal. If you accidentally killed people, laws against involuntary manslaughter, negligence, etc. would have you locked up for a long time (life, if you killed more than just one or two and the judge made you serve the sentences consecutively) If you do it deliberately, then it is first degree murder or terrorism.

        What would a law specific to flying drones around airports accomplish that existing laws don't already accomplish?

        The difficult thing would be catching you, because someone doing that who causes a crash is probably going to get the hell out of there and not stick around for the cops to show up.

      2. Bloodbeastterror

        @John Bailey

        Your comment is so poorly written and incomprehensible that I almost couldn't be bothered to write this. WTF does "Name 3" even mean...? And why should I not be angry at the possibility of such an event? I have to wait for the deaths before I'm angry? Get a grip, sonny.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          'WTF does "Name 3" even mean...?'

          Yes Minister reference. (If "Yes Minister" is also unfamiliar, Google is your friend.)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @bloodbeastterror Let's put you in jail for murder then because its a possibility too. We don't need to wait for you to actually do it! Let us stop it before it has a chance to happen.

          1. Bloodbeastterror

            "Let's put you in jail for murder"

            Get a life...

    3. Old Handle
      Trollface

      Yeah, tell that to the families of the dead.

      I'll try, but I can't promise I'll live 187 million years, so I may not get a chance.

  2. TReko
    Go

    A drone took my job!

    The bureaucrats in the FCC wish to expand their empire to control drones.

    There is a big threat to the lower end of the aviation industry (crop dusters, news choppers etc) from drones. The threat is not physical but of them being replaced by drones. It is similar to the threat of Uber to the Taxi industry.

    Expect much more fear-mongering about drones, and lobbying from the existing aviation industry. Much drone research takes place outside the US for this reason.

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: A drone took my job!

      If a drone's big enough to crop spray I'd be less worried about hitting it as it should be visible from a reasonable distance, i.e. only slightly smaller than the manned equivalent. In fact the commercial drone operators are the least of your worries from a safety point of view as they're law abiding and can read an air chart so know where to avoid.

      On the plus side, a Cessna hit a small drone in Scandinavia with its wheel and seemed to survive okay. The drone less so, so that'll probably count against mankind come the uprising...

  3. bigtimehustler

    Are they not entirely missing the intentions of the flying object here? It is often the case a drone, operated by a human is actively seeking out being close to planes. Birds however, are randomly just around in the area and may hit a plane or a plane hit them by chance. The two things are not comparable in the way they have compared them.

    This is like suggesting that because there are far less missiles flying around in the air than birds, birds will hit planes far more often than missiles.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a very good comparrison study

    The study compares birds with drones. They are vastly different, the birds will try and remove themselves from the area of the plane while the drone operator will try and get as close as possible to the aircraft, or at least closer than his mate did.

    Since this study was carried out by a university I think there is rather a bias in the findings (university students are more likely to fly drones) and that is beside the fact you can't reliably compare birds behavior with that of macho drone operators (the guy perving on girls in the back yard got upset when the father shot his drone down).

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Not a very good comparrison study

      Birds are smart... drone operators - not so much.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a very good comparrison study

        Birds are smart... drone operators - not so much.

        Interesting how the same bird brain can have so different results depending on where it is fitted..

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Not a very good comparrison study

        Oh? Then explain US Airways Flight 1549...

  5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Everybody knows

    1 in a million shots happen, 9 times out of 10....

    Yes it's incredibly unlikely but if it did happen.... if it did happen then there'd be all hell to pay.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Everybody knows

      It's worth noting that 30,000 Americans kill themselves on the roads every year.

  6. John Doe 12

    Since when were white-tailed deer classed as birds? Proof the author did not properly read the original report which states the following in relation to the solitary commercial airline death:

    "In 2000, an Embraer EMB-120 operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines hit a pair of white-tailed deer on its landing roll. The passenger in seat 3C suffered injuries and eventually died from an infection."

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    "The academics admit that there are some weaknesses in the study."

    Yep.

    Reaching an obviously-incorrect conclusion for one.

    There will almost certainly be a crystal clear example of a drone-on-aircraft collision within the next several years. Perhaps not quite 2kg class, but it'll still prove that they're way off.

    It'll be caused by some kid trying to video aircraft maneuvering near an airport, or them just fooling around.

  9. graeme leggett

    written by

    A technologist and a economist.

    Not by wildlife or aviation researchers. Suspect writers, while making (inadvertently) a point that its good to try to apply some evidence base to policy decision, are working out of their depth.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who pays for these silly studies? birds are not controlled by people, drones are. Therefore all the numbers are irrelevant if one person decides to cause harm with a drone. A bird on the other hand isn't going to think, oh I think I'll fly into a plane today. Now if they factored in people to the study that 187 million would be considerably lower.

  11. Jimbo in Thailand

    Sad that this is even an issue

    As a now-inactive real-aircraft pilot (and former aircraft owner) I find it too sad that the FAA is forced to step into the toy-drone fray, which they clearly did not want to do. If drone owners, I won't even use the term 'flyers' or 'pilots', since those skills are not required with these semi-autonomous-self-flying devices, would just use some common sense we wouldn't even be talking about this. RC flyers have enjoyed their hobby for decades flying within sight of their aircraft, which is required... and away from jetports and/or any hazardous-to-others areas. No reason that drone operators can't do the same, I'm a geek and I love technology but saw this drone problem coming a mile away. Gotta admit that the latest drones are indeed fantastic toys, and I plan to snag one with a 4K camera this year, but in the hands of the typical numpty they can indeed be dangerous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sad that this is even an issue

      The fact is there has not been a single drone strike. You are quick to put them down but RC pilots have quite happily managed to avoid any kind of accident up to this point. Meanwhile your beloved real-aircraft pilots are reporting thousands of sightings of drone near misses at speeds and altitudes which are physically impossible. Lieing or hallucinating, either way are *they* fit to be flying?

    2. nijam

      Re: Sad that this is even an issue

      > ... FAA is forced to step into the toy-drone fray, which they clearly did not want to do.

      Wrong, and wrong again. They *weren't* forced to, and they clearly *did* want to.

  12. jake Silver badge

    The difference between drones & birds around airports ...

    ... is that the birds are usually smart enough to stay well away from the planes. The drone pilots? Not so much.

  13. dwrolfe

    Drones are far more dangerous than birds, here's why...

    Folks,

    I've a Private Pilots licence and IMHO drones are a far bigger problem than this study claims:

    1. Birds actively avoid aircraft, generally by diving down. Since aircraft don't make radical changes in altitude the bird will rapidly so far below the airplane that the pilot couildn't hit it if they wanted to. Drones on the other hand don't avoid anything.

    2. Drones fly in straight lines which makes them harder to see. Any object on a collison course with you will remain in the exaxt same place in your field of view, while getting bigger slowly, until suddenly it's in your face. Birds wander and flap their wings, which makes them easier to see.

    3. The study looks looks at the risks posed by direct collisions. IMHO a far bigger issue will be the panic and distraction they can cause, especially to student and less experienced pilots. The vast majoirty of aviation accidents are caused by a chain of events, not a single catastrophic incident. An unanticipated ecounter with a drone would be an excellent start to such a chain of events.

    4. What makes anyone think drones aren't going to get miuch, much bigger?

    5. Though experiment: If we can have drones in the air why can't we have drone cars that get given to kids as xmas presents and share the roads with us? Oh wait, that'd be a terrible idea...

    1. Robin Bradshaw

      Re: Drones are far more dangerous than birds, here's why...

      5. Though experiment: If we can have drones in the air why can't we have drone cars that get given to kids as xmas presents and share the roads with us? Oh wait, that'd be a terrible idea..

      Theres this new project google is working on that nobody has heard about yet, Self driving cars!!! yeah i know crazy right, i heard they might even have some demo hardware in a few years time.

      So not so much as a thought experiment, more they just aren't on sale yet, give it time and they will be.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Drones are far more dangerous than birds, here's why...

      "1. Birds actively avoid aircraft, generally by diving down. Since aircraft don't make radical changes in altitude the bird will rapidly so far below the airplane that the pilot couildn't hit it if they wanted to. Drones on the other hand don't avoid anything."

      Then what happened with US Airways Flight 1549, which DID strike birds AND force the airplane down?

  14. Elpuente

    Given that the knuckle-draggers who shine laser pens at aircraft are probably capable of operating a drone in restricted airspace, prohibition is unlikely to form an effective deterrent.

    A better solution would be to mandate that all drones offered for sale are fitted with a small transponder which would light-up both Air Traffic Control radar and an airliners Collision Avoidance System

    1. TRT Silver badge

      The same transponder would, of course, be serial number tagged so any idiot that did fly it in a restricted zone would be immediately descended upon.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        And what's to stop some determined miscreant from finding a way to remove or otherwise disable the beacon? Or simply to build one from kit or scratch with the device missing?

        1. Elpuente

          The transponder would be tiny, attached to the PCB and bound in resin, it would be near-impossible to disable or remove it without destroying the electronics. Nothing is completely foolproof against a sufficiently resourceful fool, but banning the import or sale of components without the transponder would go a long way towards reducing the misuse of recreational drones.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Resin? Hah! If people can carefully use acid to decap an integrated circuit, they can defeat an epoxy block. I keep seeing console modchips in the same boat. If you can't do it, there's probably someone who can do it for you as well as know ways to import beacon-free parts, probably by adapting multi-use boards used for other legitimate things, in which case you're trying to ban hypochlorite bleach: good luck.

            1. Marcelo Rodrigues

              "Resin? Hah! If people can carefully use acid to decap an integrated circuit, they can defeat an epoxy block."

              Although that's true, You are missing the point. If someone is determined enough to go to this lengths to brake the law... it would make no difference what is allowed or not.

              I believe the transponder idea is a good one. If someone tries to overcome it, I doubt very much the same person would respect whatever regulations were put in place.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Think Prohibition. Ornerous laws can become unenforceable if enough people balk on them. Think the black market and why AK-47s still come into the country. Demand draws supply through hook or crook. Meaning the law can ring hollow.

                1. James O'Shea

                  what's onerous about requiring that a drone have a transponder and be registered?

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    It smacks of Big Brother, that's what.

  15. TRT Silver badge

    The danger to an aircraft...

    posed by a bird or by a drone, they acknowledge, could be different because birds are made of meat and drones are made of plastic and electronics. There could be hugely different consequences as the result of one hitting a prop or a set of compressor blades.

    We could test the relative harm of each quite easily. A drone: Will it blend?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: The danger to an aircraft...

      Perusing the category "Mid-air collisions" on Aviation-safety.net, it's a toss-up whether a collision between a jetliner and a Cessna-class aircraft would cause the jetliner to crash. It's something you don't want anyway, but it's not necessarily fatal to the occupants of the jetliner. So, extrapolating a bit from that data, a collision with a drone isn't likely to cause fatalities, but it will definitely result in a significant repair bill.

      And as long as the drone controller is untraceable the bill won't end up there.

  16. Tom_

    "Statistically just one airplane will be damaged every 1.87 million years, says study"

    No it doesn't!

  17. Alan Edwards

    Testing?

    The bit I don't get is why there hasn't been any research.

    Buy a crap-load of toy drones, stick 'em in a wind tunnel and throw them at things, see what damage they (don't) do. Simples. My suspicion is they will disintegrate without even scratching the paint, but there little reason not to try it, apart from not being the poor sod who has to vacuum the bits up.

    For extra credit give a few to people like Pratt And Whitney, GE and Rolls-Royce and ask them to fly them into running engines. Again, my suspicion is you'll get a lot of tiny, burnt bits of plastic out of the back, but they already destroy a bunch of engines testing bird strikes, lets try some quad-copters too.

  18. Chris Hunt

    "Statistically just one airplane will be damaged every 1.87 million years, says study"

    No it doesn't, it says that one will be damaged for every 1.87 million years of drone flight time. Since there are (apparently) a million drones in the US, let's suppose they are actually airborne for a couple of hours a week on average - about 1% of the year - you're looking at a collision every 187 years or so. Still a pretty low risk, but not the one-in-two-million shot that you suggest.

    1. James O'Shea

      worse than that

      "you're looking at a collision every 187 years or so. Still a pretty low risk, but not the one-in-two-million shot that you suggest."

      As the number of drones goes up, and as the amount of time people spend playing with them also goes up, then the odds of a collision also go up. Given the current numbers, 1% flight-time/year and 1 million drones, and given the rate of increase of drone ownership and of specialised drone activities, including but not limited to business support ranging from real-estate photography on up, cutting that 1 collision in 187 year figure to something significantly less is not only possible but probable.

      And all that it'll take for _serious_ regulations, with _serious_ penalties for trying to get around the regulations, would be one incident which kills or seriously hurts someone. There are many, many, MANY complete idiots out there. All that it would take would be for one guy to put just one drone into the flight deck glasshouse of just one Airbus on final approach to cause a problem for everyone who flies drones. Including those who abide by all the rules.

      As a realistic measure, there _should_ be some kind of method for positively IDing drones on radar. There _should_ be some method to trace ownership. Yes, putting a transponder on each aircraft's motherboard can be defeated... but by definition that, of itself, would be illegal. And it would mean that cops would set up drone traps the way they currently run speed traps; wait for drones to fly overhead into a restricted zone, try to interrogate the transponder. No answer? Excellent. Illegal drone. It's gotta come down sooner or later, follow it with a cop drone, take pix of whoever recovers it, fine him heavily and confiscate it. You _know_ that's what will happen if drone owners don't voluntarily both clean up their act and self-police their hoppy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: worse than that

        "It's gotta come down sooner or later, follow it with a cop drone, take pix of whoever recovers it, fine him heavily and confiscate it."

        Not if it's a kamikaze drone (fitted with explosives) on a pre-programmed or self-determined flight path (no radio signals to trace). In which case, once it's up, it's pretty much too late...

  19. Volisios

    Drones are ok but...

    If it's all the same I'd still like my aircraft to avoid sucking 1kg of someone's toy into an engine at a critical moment of take-off or landing, thank you.

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The difference

    Multi-rotor RMCA's (Remote Controlled Model Aircraft) are so much easier to fly that it's changing the landscape of model aviation. When I was a kid I had a line guided model airplane…. briefly. It takes skill to operate a fixed wing or rotary model aircraft and those that engage in that hobby take safety seriously and generally fly in designated areas as part of a club.

    The proliferation of cheap multi-rotor craft that are much easier to keep airborne for more than 10 secs are a problem. Many people are using them in a very unsafe manner and don't even think about what they are doing before they are doing it. There are many videos on YouTube and other video sites of what not to do. I would compare RCMA's vs Other model aircraft to the difference between guns and swords. Both weapons are deadly, but the sword takes skill and training to be effective. A gun one simply points and pulls the trigger and can do so from a greater distance.

    The last thing the pilot of a police helicopter or a fire suppression aircraft wants to see is a RCMA whipping past their windscreen yet there are numerous reports of people (not just one but several at a time) flying multi-rotor craft close in to to these.

    It's the few bad apples that do ruin it for everybody else. Anybody caught flying recklessly should get hit with fines like red rectangular building things. Commercial operators should have to get qualifications based on the size and weight of the craft they are operating and be required to carry insurance.

    Didn't some more people just get cautioned for flying around Stonehenge again?

    1. hayzoos

      Re: The difference

      "Didn't some more people just get cautioned for flying around Stonehenge again?"

      I don't think there would be as much chance of commercial aircraft collision around Stonehenge. There is good reason to ban such flights around Stonehenge. Flying people are likely to cause much more damage in a collision compared to a bird or a drone.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The difference

        I was trying to illustrate that people will do things they aren't supposed to be doing. I haven't visited Stonehenge in some time, but I wouldn't be surprised if operating a drone there was against the law without special permits.

  21. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This worthless so-called "study" also fails entirely to account for the number of drones brought down by bird-strikes, the number of birds brought down by drone-strikes, and the number of drones brought down by drone-strikes. It also understates the effects of the number of birds brought down by bird-strikes.

    Then we get into the completely ignored three-body issues: drone-drone-plane, drone-bird-plane, bird-drone-bird ... well I think the point is made.

    And given recent events in Russia, I'm appalled that the drone-bird-exploding meteor scenario hasn't been at least explored.

  22. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    17 April 2016 BBC 'Drone hits British Airways plane...'

    Drone hits British Airways plane approaching Heathrow Airport

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36067591

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