Toy Drones Are Serious Risk to Aircraft: Aerospace Firm

By | November 25, 2015

Troy drones can be dangerous and costly to the aerospace industry and consumers, according to a new report from a Texas aerospace and defense firm.

The study by Aero Kinetics, a Texas-based aerospace and defense company, examined what might happen when a collision occurs between a toy drone and a manned aircraft, including the potential for damage and death. The study then compared a toy drone strike with historical data on bird strikes, which the report says are proven to cause significant damage to manned aircraft and loss of human life.

Citing figures that bird strikes cost $951,000,000 per year in the U.S. alone, the study concludes that the impact of a toy drone — made of plastic, metal, and engineered materials— with a manned aircraft in a collision would be even more catastrophic.

Between 1990 and 2013, there were more than 70,000 bird strikes with planes during take-off or landing, according to FAA statistics cited by Aero Kinetics.

The report, entitled “The Real Consequences of Flying Toy Drones in the National Airspace System,” concludes that toy drones “pose a significant threat to manned rotorcraft in all phases of flight, including cruise, based upon their typical operating altitudes.”

“Most people don’t understand how threatening a toy drone can be. Toy drones are not unmanned aircraft,” said W. Hulsey Smith, chief executive officer of Aero Kinetics. “Make no mistake lives are at stake.”

The report was released as the FAA is considering requiring most drone operators to register in an online database. The agency received recommendations from a task force earlier this week that would require registration for unmanned aircraft of all sizes, even small, toy drones.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a member of the task force, called the recommendations for the registry a good start.

“The real goal is to create a culture of accountability and safety—and that means giving operators the information they need to fly safely while making it as easy as possible for them to participate in the system,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs, who represented the association on the task force panel. “This is a good start, but the drone industry is relatively new, and we need to be prepared to make adjustments as we learn more.”

However, another task force member, Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents unmanned aircraft hobbyists, has criticized the registry idea as creating too much of a burden on the toy industry and those who operate toy drones. Dave Mathewson, executive director of the group, claimed that the registration process is “an unnecessary and unjustified burden to our 185,000 members, who have operated harmoniously within the aviation community for decades.” He said his group had “cautioned against unnecessarily encumbering the toy industry” by including small drones in the requirement.

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