What are the chances of your
airplane hitting a drone?
The Australian Transport Safety Board has recently
investigated the chances of an airplane colliding with a
drone. It has issued a 48 page report: A safety analysis of
remotely piloted aircraft systems.
These are some of the findings in the report:
- In 2016, there were 69 reported near encounters with
drones in Australia. There are no reported collisions to
date in Australia.
- World-wide, there have been 5 known mid-air
collisions between drones and aircraft, one of which
ended fatally (it was a glider in Germany).
- One half of the near encounters in Australia were
above 1,000 ft up to 5,000 ft, with 16% above 5,000 ft,
so there is a real danger to aircraft, especially during
take-off and landing near airports.
- The Australian Transport Safety Board has used bird
strike data to model the damage expected to aircraft
from drone strikes.
- Given that aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus
A320 families are certified to withstand bird strikes
where the bird weighs up to 3.65 kg, the focus is on the
damage caused by large birds (which weigh more than 3.65
- In 2014-2015 there were large bird strikes at or
near these airports: Brisbane (a Pelican and two
Eagles), Cairns (Eagle), Darwin (Jabiru), Sydney
(Pelican), Avalon (Eagle), Launceston (Swan) and
- Mostly, the aircraft's wings and tail will be
damaged, resulting in loss of control. There is also the
possibility that the drone might penetrate the
windscreen resulting in pilot incapacitation.
- Engine ingestion will occur in about 8% of drone
strikes, which may cause engine damage and shutdown.
Unlike birds which will liquefy when ingested (the rotor
blades act as a blender), the components of a drone are
rigid and in the case of the battery heavy and possibly
combustible, and so are likely to cause more damage.
For more information, and a commentary upon the CASA Drone
Safety Laws, click on my article
The dangers of flying a drone near