Watch Your Head?

Ever feel like the sky is falling?  Sometimes it actually is.  And with more unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying overhead, there certainly is a chance that some of them may eventually come down unexpectedly. But how worried should we be about that possibility, really?  It turns out maybe not as much as you may have thought.

The Federal Aviation Administration, along with a group of universities, has released a study that investigates the risks posed by UAS crashes.  The study determined that UAS pose a lower risk, pound-for-pound, than other things that might fall from the sky, like wooden blocks and steel plates.  This difference is because UAS fall slower, are flexible during collision, and retain significant energy during impact, whereas wood and metal debris transfer most of their energy to the object they hit.  That transfer of energy is what can cause serious head or neck injuries. 

But don’t start crashing your UAS into your pesky friend just yet.  This study does not mean that UAS are risk free.  Their blades and payloads (including batteries) can still cause serious injuries.  Understanding this risk is the first step toward adopting the kind of performance-based regulations that can properly mitigate it, without imposing an undue drag on the development of UAS.


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