When it comes to the potential damage impacting an unmanned aerial vehicle in flight might cause, there has been a lot of discussion about how bad it might or might not be. Would hitting a drone really be all that different than a bird strike? A recently released report from the Alliance from System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) suggests that it might be.
The report covers a series of studies on the potential damage caused by an air-to-air collision between a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS or drone) and a manned aircraft. To do so, the research team developed, verified and validated detailed computer models for business- and commercial-class aircraft and two types of small drones: quadcopter and fixed-wing. Once the models were designed and tested, computer simulations were run, “supported by material and component level testing.” According to Dr. Gerardo Olivares, the Director of Crash Dynamics and Computational Mechanics Laboratories at ASSURE partner Wichita State University, over 180 scenarios were tested over the last twelve months.
With all the data gathered, ASSURE found that “…sUAS collisions inflict more physical damage than that of an equivalent size and speed bird-strike. sUAS components are much stiffer than birds, which are mostly composed of water.” The studies also looked at possible post-crash hazards created by the lithium batteries found in drones. Interestingly, the study found that the batteries are usually completely destroyed in high-speed crashes—meaning no risk of them causing a post-crash fire. The only battery-caused fire concerns involve low-speed crash scenarios where the battery stays lodged in the airframe.
This isn’t the only set of collision studies ASSURE will conduct. The group plans to continue its research through 2021.
Learn more at ASSURE.