THE “Miracle on the Hudson”—the successful ditching of a US Airways jetliner into New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after it hit a flock of geese—taught frequent flyers two things. First, it really is possible to land an aircraft on water, just as is shown on seat-back safety cards. Second, and more worryingly, the incident showed how dangerous birds can be to aircraft, particularly when they get sucked into engines. The machines are supposed to be designed to withstand an impact by the feathered creatures. Using big guns, chickens have been fired at aircraft engines in safety tests since the 1950s. But what about drones?

New research suggests that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can actually be much more damaging than birds at the same impact speed, even if they are a similar weight. The study, published by the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, a think-tank, used computer simulations to examine the impact of bird and UAV...Continue reading