European Aviation Agency Begins Study into Risks Drones Pose to Aircraft

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.