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Scary drone video with 9.4 million views

I read quite a few of the comments under that YouTube video. I shouldn’t have done that…lots of idiots around and makes one pretty damn sure that a sizeable minority of potential drone operators wouldn’t care about airspaces even if they actually knew about them.

Lots of comments a lá “planes never fly that low” or “but he checked on flightradar24 before so he was save” etc.

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim

In the other hand, I remember a young boy who had the courage to call the tower “on how to fly safely his drone around the local area”, the answer from the tower guy was “NO, DON’T DO IT”, I don’t think it is the answer that the guy was looking for…these things are no going anywhere soon and the attitude to safety and airspace works both ways (the argument is not much different from saying: “stupid private C172s” are endangering “people’s CAT traffic” in big airports, there is always room to get the two in the same airspace)

ESSEX, United Kingdom

dirkdj wrote:

Many years ago, before drones existed, there were RC models.

Thanks for posting that Dirk, so far the only description of a model aeroplane causing a crash of a full-size aircraft that I’ve read. I did hit my daughter’s horse once with 15lb 1/5th scale Cirrus Moth, square on the flank, in a situation very similar to the one Dirk describes! But old Monty just flicked his tail and carried on grazing.

Many times I would try to reach the cloudbase, but only once, when it was about 300’, did I make it. And of course the model emerged completely out of control. So I can understand this chap’s enthusiasm for what he’s doing, and feel sure he’d respond well to a bit of aviation education, rather than mud slinging. If our glow powered models had been able to fly IMC, had cameras on board and the endurance to reach 3000’ and far downwind, we’d have done that too.

EGBW / KPRC, United Kingdom

Are you sure you have a Ph.D. in engineering?

What I obviously meant was that if you try to find any statistics about real and fatal drone accidents, you will end up with the number zero.

It doesn’t mean it will never happen. It only means that compared with all other causes of fatal accidents, crashing with a drone is not one of them. Which in turn says something about the real risk. There are much bigger fishes out there.

Let’s do some real numbers, shall we?

In Britain, there are several million birds of a size that could hurt an aircraft. An by that I mean take out a jet engine if ingested. At times, probably over 20 million (wintering waterbirds certainly are in that category, and there are around 12.5 million there in season, a few million Gulls, etc. – I think we can be less concerned about the 35 million Pheasants…) Anyone who wants to add them all up, maybe a bit of work for a rainy day: source

How do drones stack up? Worldwide, at the end of 2017, there will be 30 million consumer drones around (see here, assuming that they are scrap after three years), so let’s say there are 2-3 million in the UK.

So that’s maybe one drone for 10 large birds, and somewhere in the mid-2020s, it would be one drone per large bird.

That sounds scary, but let’s look at the damage caused.

The millions of larger birds do somewhere around 100 million dollars of damage, but rarely kill anyone (26 deaths per year, worldwide) or damage aircraft beyond repair (a similar number). The FAA believes there is $1bn worth of damage per year in the US from all wildlife strikes, so 10% of that for the UK seems reasonable, given it has about 1/5th of the US traffic, but not much of a landmass to fly over, and wildlife includes deer strikes….

(BTW – that would be around 5 dollar per bird per year, just for order of magnitude)

Compared to that, there is next to no damage done by drones so far. And given the hype, it would certainly be reported.

So it is pretty clear that the drone risk is exaggerated, the number of drone strikes per unit is MUCH lower than for birds. Probably by two orders of magnitude or more.

That is not surprising, since birds fly a lot more than drones, which will mostly be sitting in boxes once the enthusiasm wears off, or are being charged. . Also, the great majority of drone users is flying them responsibly, I have never seen a drone flock on the runway at Lydd, for example.

At some point, there will be an incident. My bet is that it will be a jet engine being damaged, since that is where bird strikes do most economic damage, and there will be an uproar. And it is most likely not just some person ignoring the rules, but deliberately flying it around aircraft, either maliciously or “to get some cool pics”.

I humbly suggest to do the same what we do with birds – if they become a problem near an airport, shoot them (the drones, not the drone pilot, as much as we would like to)

Last Edited by Cobalt at 21 Nov 18:15
Biggin Hill

Birds are much more manoeuvrable than present-day drones, and have far better sensors, and processing capability, to avoid or intercept other flying objects.
Unfortunately they haven’t had time to evolve avoidance procedures for high speed aircraft.
My guess is that drones will be unable to do much to avoid a collision.

EGPE, United Kingdom

The main 3rd party risk from drones is probably people flying them over gatherings. I keep seeing them pop up at carnivals, demonstrations, building demolitions etc… often flying directly overhead crowds. People have lost eyes etc. to them.


On the subject of drones where they shouldn’t be, one of the TT races this year was delayed by about 20 minutes by someone flying a drone over the circuit despite repeated advisories on the radio, in newspapers, on the tannoy and on the internet that the RA.T applied to drones as well as manned aircraft. Unfortuantely the police couldn’t catch the guy.

Last Edited by alioth at 23 Nov 11:16
Andreas IOM

In related news, ISO has just published a draft of a drone standard:


If anyone still believes drones are not a hazard to air traffic, try this:

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden
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