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Commercial Study Seeks Drone Midair Testing

By Staff Writer | November 25, 2015

Small drones are not unmanned aircraft and should not be allowed to fly unrestricted in civil U.S. airspace without further testing, one aerospace and defense firm argues in a new report. The report was issued just as a U.S. Transportation Dept. task force was concluding that drones as small as 0.55 lb should be registered with the FAA, in part because of the threat that vehicles that small pose to aircraft and people on the ground. In its report, Fort Worth, Texas-based Aero Kinetics said the small vehicles “are not designed or built to the same aerospace standards” as aircraft. Labeling the smaller aircraft “toy drones,” Aero Kinetics said they pose a significant mid-air collision threat to helicopters. The company bases that on its comparison of small-drone and bird characteristics and application of FAA bird-strike protection standards to small drones. It concluded that helicopters would suffer more damage from small-drone midair than one with a bird and that small drones “pose a catastrophic threat to manned rotorcraft in all phases of flight, including cruise, based on their typical operating altitudes.” Aero Kinetics’ CEO and Chairman W. Hulsey Smith told R&WI a small-drone midair probably would be worse than indicated by the study, which didn’t factor in a drone’s hard metallic and plastic components. Smith wants to form a consortium of manufacturers and associations to conduct real-world impact testing using small drones and full-size helicopter test. You can find Aero Kinetics’ study here.

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