On October 12, 2017, Canada witnessed its first incident of a drone colliding with a commercial aircraft, as we wrote about in an earlier blog post. The plane landed safely and no passengers were injured. Though the offending drone pilot has not been located and charged, it is believed that they were operating recreationally. However, this incident reinforced the need for public education on safety requirements for drones, as the recreational drone market continues to grow.

Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) released a study on what happens to an aircraft when struck by a drone.

The study found that drones that collide with planes cause more damage than birds of the same size that are moving at the same speed. It concluded that this is because drone components are much stiffer than birds, which are mostly composed of water. A drone’s motor and batteries, among other parts, contribute to the rigidity of the structure.

In order to conduct this study, researchers from four universities in the United States used computers to simulate collisions between drones weighing 1.2 to 3.6 kilograms (2.7 to 8 pounds), and common airliners and business jets. In some cases, drones would have penetrated the plane’s exterior.

As described in our earlier post, approximately 131 of reported drone incidents in 2017 have been deemed by Transport Canada to be aviation safety concerns. In the United States, the FAA has reported more than 250 sightings per month of drones which pose potential risks to planes.

The FAA estimates that 2.3 million drones will be purchased for recreational use this year, and the number is expected to rise in coming years. The FAA study’s findings underscore why drone regulation is an important public policy issue, and highlight the importance of imposing and adhering to educational and safety requirements.