back to article UAV maker swipes at sponsor of opaque Qinetiq drone study

Drone manufacturer DJI has publicly challenged a pilots' union to release the disputed results of an aircraft collision study it sponsored. Commenting on a Facebook post by the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), DJI's legal veep Brendan Schulman told the trade union to stop using DJI's name in support of its position …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this include

    ...the terrible near miss with a drone (OMG!!!!), which actually turned out to be a carrier bag.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Does this include

      But terrrrrrists could stand at the end of the runway with rolls of bib bags and release them one at a time!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        To be far - If you were flying a plane with 150+ passengers on board and something quite large started heading towards you, you'd shit yourself as well - I know I would.. Even if it was only a plastic bag, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: @Spanners..

          Its surprisingly difficult to see a plastic bag sized object when you're moving at close to 200mph. Same for drones, I suspect.

          Birds are by far a bigger hazard than drones. There's a lot of them for a start and they're autonomous, unregistered and don't give a damn whether they're flying in controlled airspace or not. Some can be quite large.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: @Spanners..

            "Birds are by far a bigger hazard than drones. "

            And the number of bird observations by pilots around Heathrow has dropped in a very direct relationship with the increase in the number of drone observations.

            It's hard enough to see either in a light plane travelling 80-90mph, let alone in a jet doing 150-200mph in approach phase. It's also surprisingly hard to see another light aircraft flying directly towards you until it's less than 100 metres away - and that's somehting with a 10 metre wingspan.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    That's unusual

    An opaque poorly defined government study that seems to pave the,way for extreme regulation.

    I can see that pilots may be against anything that may impinge on their ability to earn a good wage or even have a job but the UK government, and/or the public servants who do the work seem to want everything controlled to the point where life will no longer be worth living.

    Anything that isn't bread and circus for the plebs and they want to regulate it until it disappears.

    1. Mark C 2

      Re: That's unusual

      Of course you are correct. It's not the fact that the pilot may have 150+ passengers while on short finals to land when some tw@t with a drone decides it would be cool to video that aircraft but gets too close and the engine ingests the drone, destroying it, possibly catastrophically, with £5+ million worth of damage, and jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board the aircraft.

      There is absolutely no reason a member of the public should operate a drone in the vicinity of an operational airport and with so many idiots / tw@ts about we need some way of preventing them. Anyone that flies a drone near an aircraft while in flight should be prosecuted for attempted murder. Same as shining a laser at an aircraft in flight.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want to know what the government is going to do about kites being flown near airports?

    I want a knee jerk reaction that affects everyone without actually thinking about it in the first place, sure you could put CCTV around runways (probably already is), have regular patrols (probably already do), move the boundaries to a safe distance (a lot probably are) or install jammers for the frequencies drones use but where's the security theatre fun in that?

  4. Xamol

    I'm torn...

    I like drones and think that they have multiple legitimate and desirable applicaitons such as photography and the moves towards drone deliveries. Restricting their use could slow down progress towards novel applications for drones that haven't really been explored yet.

    However, I spend quite a lot of time travelling on aeroplanes and as far as I know, there's no technical way to geofence drones that can't be overcome by someone who's determined to do so and then replicated by anyone who can use Google.

    On balance, registration seems like the only option to address the main issue which is the idiots who think it might be fun to fly their drone near a plane or airport or just to see how high it can go. Of course it won't stop someone who's determined to break the law from doing so but that's pretty much impossible at this stage anyway (an outright ban wouldn't stop the truly determined).

    Would registration slow down development of drones for new applications, probably not because anyone serious about it won't have a problem registering anyway...

    Downvotes expected...

    1. Peter Galbavy

      Re: I'm torn...

      Did you read the blog post from clearvisionsecurity? Let me quote the first two paragraphs of the conclusion (but the whole thing is worth reading):

      "Rather than being a damning study showing a clearly “proven drone collision threat”, to airliners this report does the opposite. It shows that there is no threat to airliners from drones on approach and landing and that any threat would only occur in the most extreme and, by definition, rare of circumstances, if ever.

      It shows that there is a threat posed by drones to the general aviation (GA) community, but that is the same threat that birds also pose to them. So it tells the GA community what they already knew – avoid drones and birds."

      1. Xamol

        Re: I'm torn...

        @Peter Galbavy

        Fair point but airports have measures in place to prevent bird strikes during the landing phase because it's hard to make evasive manoeuvres while landing. Those measures won't stop drones.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: I'm torn...

          > airports have measures in place to prevent bird strikes

          No, they do not. Sometimes they have some noisemakers that don't work, and sometimes they have a bloke come out with a shotgun for an hour on the weekend. There's your "measures in place"

          1. Xamol

            Re: I'm torn...

            ...and some have birds of prey so noisemakers and shotguns aren't really all my "measures in place".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I'm torn...

              So we bring forward the drone-hunting birds of prey project they're doing elsewhere in the world. Problem solved.

              1. handleoclast

                Re: I'm torn...


                Drone-hunting birds of prey?

                There's an XKCD about that.

                How long before there's an XKCD about everything? (For small values of "everything").

    2. Haku

      Re: I'm torn...

      Registration won't work in terms of tracking down law breakers - it's just security theater, giving the authorities the ability to show they're doing something about the 'problem'.

      All that will happen is that those who do, and those who are going to, fly safely within the current regulations will continue to do so, but those who have no intention of good flying won't register, so the list will be useless.

      If you're thinking about the notion that you'll have to register when you purchase a drone, that'll just make people buy from places that don't make you register, like direct from China which was my where I ordered my first 'proper size' drone from.

  5. WolfFan Silver badge


    Just fit all commercial aircraft with remote-operated gun positions (1940s tech, as seen on aircraft ranging from Me-210s and -410s to B-17s and B-29s) or with an external rail fitted with an infra-red homing missile. Paint the kill scores on the tails of the aircraft, the way the Luftwaffe did, along with the gongs awarded for those who have high scores. Who wouldn't want to fly in an Airbus emblazoned with the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (a.k.a. the Throatache with Lettuce and Knives and Forks)? Here's Heinz Bar's Fw-190, after he got his Throatache with Lettuce and Cutlery, for making 200 kills.

    1. Alan Edwards

      Re: Bah.

      > external rail fitted with an infra-red homing missile

      Missile's decision making process - "Shall I lock on to the tiny point that is a few degrees above ambient, or the giant ball of fire over there". Jet engines run rather hotter than drone motors, you'd end up shooting yourself down.

      Trying to hit an Inspire 2 from a motorised 50-cal turret would make for better in-flight entertainment than any of the movies though.

      1. James O'Shea

        Re: Bah.

        "Missile's decision making process - "Shall I lock on to the tiny point that is a few degrees above ambient, or the giant ball of fire over there". Jet engines run rather hotter than drone motors, you'd end up shooting yourself down."

        that would be why you get a lock on the target _before_ you launch

        "Trying to hit an Inspire 2 from a motorised 50-cal turret would make for better in-flight entertainment than any of the movies though."

        make them work for the gongs. And replace '50 cal' with '30-mm chain gun', just for Biggles, I mean giggles.

      2. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Bah.

        .50 cal?

        Letting civil aviation pilots play with the big boys toys?

        "Was that a Cessna you say? Looked like a drone to me..."

        Maybe they'll be allowed .177 BBs...

  6. Haku

    Bringing facts to an argument BALPA et al is clearly dodging:

    From the Clear Vision Security article about the drone collision study:

    Non-Certified Windscreens

    One of the proven threats involved the testing of non-birdstrike certified helicopter windscreens. These were shown to fail when hit by drones, which is no great surprise since they also fail when struck by birds, as their name would suggest.

    In general aviation (GA), windscreens don’t need to be certified to withstand birdstrikes, so the findings of this study are applicable to a wide variety of aircraft within the GA field. In short they found that if your windscreen won’t withstand a birdstrike it won’t withstand a drone strike either.

    To put this within context there were 1835 confirmed birdstrikes reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 2016. To date there has never been a single confirmed drone strike reported to the CAA.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Bringing facts to an argument BALPA et al is clearly dodging:

      "In general aviation (GA), windscreens don’t need to be certified to withstand birdstrikes"

      General aviation is usually single engine. Experience is that a duck hit on climbout at 500 feet gets nicely macerated by the prop before it hits the screen - enough that you can't see, not because it's broken, but because of the mess smeared over the outside.

      And yes, I've seen the youtube videos of when they've broken.

  7. Cynic_999

    You cannot legislate against idiocy

    All manner of things could be used in a way that puts lives at risk. There have been cases of people throwing bricks off motorway bridges. Should we therefore regulate or ban bricks? Or what if someone decides to practice their golf swing in a field under the approach? A golf ball could probably smash a windscreen. Should golf balls be registered?

    We should certainly ensure that everyone who uses a drone is made aware of the danger of flying it in airspace where aircraft are likely to be found. The number of people who do so will then be very low (similar to the number of people throwing bricks onto motorways), which makes the overall risk acceptably low.

    A drone strike on an airliner may well cause expensive damage, but it is unlikely to actually result in a crash. All airliners can survive the loss of an engine at any phase of flight, and a smashed windscreen will not impair the vision of both pilots. Overall the risk is less than that presented by large birds or hailstones.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We can all see how

    Banning hand guns since Dunblane has stopped them being used by criminals and terorists in the UK?

    Banning Stun Guns has stopped them being used by criminals and terrorists in the UK?

    Banning certain dog breeds has stopped them being bred in the UK?

    Hackney's Nuclear Free zone will stop the fallout from crossing the border with Stokie / harringay?

    Regulation / licensing is a good thing, banning will just make people want them more and use them to do more dangerous stuff

    You will never stop the criminals / terrorists / idiots getting things no matter how much you ban / regulate / license

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Summary only and no methodology"

    Does indeed smell like they wrote the results to prove the conclusions.

    SOP for any con-sultancy.

    Which is why any such "independent" report should be read with a more or less large bag of salt.

    Factoid. IIRC BALPA chairman was at one time Conservative Chairman Norman Tebbett.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    those who sell a thing

    will do anything to keep selling that thing. whether it's for the best interests of others or not, whether it involves the truth or not. No surprise they would challenge, but the existence of the challenge itself carries no positive merit or "says anything" about the validity of their complaint. Could be true, could be fiction. I'll save the side-picking till other interests weigh in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: those who sell a thing

      Daddy Pooh would probably not be happy with DJI requesting the release of a report with quantization of airline downing drone requirements.

      “The stepped up regulations on drone flight safety will have an impact on all consumer-drone manufacturers, not only DJI,” Wang Cairong, the executive director at the China Artificial Intelligence Robot Industry Alliance, told the South China Morning Post.

      “We’ve seen the loss of interest in the consumer-drone industry from venture capitalists this year and the stringent regulations will accelerate the industry reshuffle,” said Wang.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      Re: those who sell a thing

      > ...will do anything to keep selling that thing

      I take it you're talking about BALPA?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DJI problems start at home

  12. JaitcH

    If a Jet Engine can . . .

    Swallow, whole, frozen chickens, liquefy and airport worker who was sucked into an engine WHY CAN'T ENGINES GOBBLE UP PLASTIC and SMALL METALLIC PARTS?

    Only in the UK . . .

  13. I3N

    A Mystery ... Not the engines, damaged control surfaces

    Shower of bird parts ... big money is for the takeoffs and landings ...

    A long while back, driving down the street, somewhat near a flight path (read freeway),

    highly regulated after

    "... PSA 182's right wing was heavily damaged, rendering the plane uncontrollable and sending it careening into a sharp right bank ..."

    "... the final conclusion of the NTSB was that even if the hydraulic lines in the right wing were undamaged, the missing flaps and spreading fire would have adversely affected the plane's aerodynamic profile and in all likelihood, Flight 182 was completely uncontrollable after the collision"

    Bird parts start raining over my car, nothing greater than 1 in.^2 [6.45 cm^2 - awk], no feathers on skin but some feathers in mess, no whole bones, ...

    Thought someone had launched this chopped up bird to hit the car, but then the trajectory and the splash pattern didn't support that suppositions.

    Probably a seagull ... fireworks became safer after fuse burn rate was regulated ... but then there is July 4, 2012 [obligatory computer reference]

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