A Virginia Tech study concludes that small commercial drones are very unlikely to cause serious injuries to people on the ground.
In January, Virginia Tech described their testing, using crash test dummies equipped with sensors to measure the impact that a drone would have if it fell out of the sky and hit a person. Now, Bloomberg News reports that the resulting journal article concludes the danger is minimal for small drones.
The study “concluded that the risks of a catastrophic head injury were less than 5 percent in an impact with a 2.6-pound (1.2-kilogram) unmanned vehicle, according to results published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering,” reports Bloomberg. “Larger drones create higher risks of injury, which may limit their uses until other safety standards can be devised, the study found.”
“Risk of injury was observed to increase with increasing UAS mass, and the larger models tested are not safe for operations over people in their current form,” the researchers said.
The study could have significant implications for the drone industry. While some manufacturers and politicians have asked the FAA to consider a “micro drone” safety classification, the FAA has rejected the idea of size-based classes in favor of an application-based structure. But as the agency considers the regulation of flight over people, these findings may make a size based classification more viable.
The FAA has said that they will prioritize flight over people in regulations, but federal law enforcement agencies have asked that the regulations not be put in place until a system of remote ID and tracking is established. The agency is working in collaboration with the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) to establish a framework for both issues.