The University of Dayton Research Institute performed a test to mimic a midair collision at 238 mph between a 2.1-pound drone and a Mooney M20 aircraft, and the larger aircraft did not come out on top.
The researchers released video showing the damage the drone did to the wing. The drone did not break apart, but tore open the leading edge of the wing as the unmanned craft bore into the structure.
“While the quadcopter broke apart, its energy and mass hung together to create significant damage to the wing,” said Kevin Poormon, group leader for impact physics at UDRI.
As the number of hobby drones in the air increases, Poormon said so does the risk of a catastrophic event.
“We’ve performed bird-strike testing for 40 years, and we’ve watched with growing concern as reports of near collisions have increased, and even more so after the collision last year between an Army Blackhawk helicopter and a hobby drone that the operator flew beyond his line of site,” Poormon said in an article by UDRI to accompany the video.
The chopper returned to its base with only minor damage to a rotor, but Poormon said it’s only a matter of time before a drone strikes a manned aircraft and causes more significant damage.
The drone used in the test was a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter. The Mooney M20 is a propeller-driven general aviation aircraft.