For many years now, newly-developed aircraft have been required to pass tests indicating that they could withstand mid-air collisions with birds. No such standardized testing exists for the growing possibility of collisions with drones, however … it's a situation which Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Short-Time Dynamics intends to rectify.

Manufacturers such as DJI have already developed systems that keep their drones from entering restricted airspaces, while other groups are working on technologies to capture or disable drones that do so. Nonetheless, as things currently stand, it is still very possible for people to fly their quadcopters into the paths of aircraft that are taking off or landing.

The batteries and motors of drones are their hardest and potentially most damage-causing components, so the Fraunhofer researchers started by using an air cannon to shoot those at 8mm-thick flat aluminum plates (simulating aircraft fuselage) mounted on a test bench. A high-speed video camera recorded the results.

Travelling at speeds ranging from 155 to 255 meters per second (509 to 837 ft/sec), the components significantly deformed and dented the plates, indicating that damage to aircraft moving at flight speed could be severe.

The team now plans on testing other materials such as carbon fiber composites, with a longer-term goal of shooting complete drones weighing up to 3 kg (6.6 lb) at complete aircraft. Among other things, the researchers want to see what sort of damage the drones will do to engines, cockpit windshields, and the leading edges of wings. Ultimately, they hope to establish a standardized drone-specific testing procedure.

"Drones do not behave like birds and weigh much more," says Fraunhofer's Dr. Sebastian Schopferer. "Therefore, it is unclear whether the safety of a bird-strike-safe aircraft is guaranteed in the event of a collision with a drone."

Source: Fraunhofer