The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has announced the start of an investigation into the dangers of drones to commercial aircraft. The news comes just a few weeks after a major scare at London's Heathrow airport, where a drone reportedly collided with an aeroplane coming in to land.
Officials have since suggested that it may have been a plastic bag, not a plane. Whoops.
Either way, the investigation from the EASA will hopefully lead to a conclusion on just how dangerous drones are in the airspace. In a statement, the EASA said that a task force of aircraft and engine manufacturers will:
- Review all relevant occurrences including the occurrences collected by the European Member States
- Analyse the existing studies on the subject of impact between drones and aircraft
- Study the vulnerabilities of aircraft (windshields, engines, and airframe) taking into account the different categories of aircraft (large aeroplanes, general aviation, and helicopters) and their associated design and operational requirements
- Consider the possibility to do further research and perform actual tests (for example on windshields)
Results of the taskforce will be published in July and a workshop will be held to discuss its findings. Hopefully they will release footage of testing, too.
It's certainly a positive move for the drone industry, both for those worried about the lack of regulations and those who have a vested interest and believe that safety concerns have been exaggerated. Shortly after the incident near Heathrow airport we highlighted the immediate media frenzy that followed, despite a recent Mercatus Research Center paper taking a closer look at the risks to aircraft posed by consumer drones.
That study found that, on average, there would be a fatality as a result of a drone colliding with a plane once every 187 million years. It'll be interesting to see how the results from the EASA compare.