How do you make drones safer? The answer to that question, if you’re this group of researchers from Virginia Tech, is on the other side of a few blunt crashes between commercial drones and a crash test dummy…’s face.
Current FAA regulations prohibit drone flights over people unless a special permit has been granted; the testing researchers at Virginia Tech are doing will help determine what risk drones pose to unsuspecting crash victims on the ground, and then design solutions that help mitigate that risk. If you ever want to receive your Amazon Prime order by drone or, more pertinent to PetaPixel readers, perform legal photojournalism from above, you ought to be rooting for this research.
“The majority of applications would be much more effective if they weren’t restricted from operating over people, but you have to demonstrate that it can be done safely,” Mark Blanks, the director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which runs Virginia Tech’s test site, tells VT News. “The risk of injury is very low, particularly with small aircraft. This research can mitigate those risks further. And we have the world’s best team doing it.”
Step one of this process: fly some drones into a crash test dummy’s face and record as much data as possible. Once you’ve collected data from both the drone and the crash test dummy’s sensors, you can begin to offer suggestions, make modifications, and establish standards that will make the drones safer in the event a pilot loses control and it comes crashing down on a person’s head.
For now, they’re flying the drones into the dummy, but future test will include drop tests and lab simulations; all together, this will give researchers the data they need to inform the drone engineers of tomorrow.
Of course, it also makes for an entertaining video you can watch today. Knock yourself out…