(CNN) – This lab is usually used for airliner crash tests, but on this day researchers at Wichita State University are studying what happens when a drone, falls from the sky onto someone below.
Major General Ret. James Poss, exec director Assure from Mississippi State University, explains, “What happens if we really do have a drone running into an airliner, colliding with people on the ground? We also have to answer that worst case scenario for the FAA.”
The federal government is about to unveil new rules that will open America’s airspace to widespread commercial drone use. In a matter of months its projected thousands could take flight.
Companies like Amazon have already launched ambitious marketing campaigns for how they’ll use drones to deliver packages directly to your front door. Poss continued with, “It’s a really massive moment in aviation history.”
Retired Air Force general James Poss leads a team of universities and private companies studying the dangers of drones to people and planes for the FAA. He goes onto say “Full scale drone hitting the vertical stabilizer.”
This lab uses 3D scans to simulate midair collisions between drones and planes. Manufacturers already test the dangers of birds to airplanes. There are about fourteen thousand bird strikes a year.
A flock of geese famously took down a us airways flight dubbed the miracle on the Hudson in 2009. The fear is drones could do much more damage.
Reporter Rene Marsh asked, “So which is more dangerous the drone or the bird?” Poss responded with, “Drones are made of very hard component, engines, cameras, batteries that could do significant damage to the aircraft what our research is trying to prove or disprove is just how much damage can they do?” To get that proof, researchers try and duplicate a drone hitting a plane at full speed.
Reporter Marsh explained, “This is the battery of a drone and researchers shoot components like this through this cannon at a rate of 200 mph it’s meant to mimic what could happen if a drone and a plane collide midair.”
So far tests like this have shown a drone can do significant damage, but conclusive data is still months away. Poss commented with, “We need to figure out what’s safe to do with these drones and what’s the probability of these accidents happening.”
The goal is to make sure the f-a-a has the research it needs to write well-informed rules answering questions such as. How close drones will be allowed to fly near airports or how high they can fly at all.