back to article UK drone collision study didn't show airliner window penetration

A British drone collision study used as evidence for the government’s flagship drone pilot registration law found UAVs pose less of a risk to airliners than government officials and trade unions have claimed. The study, which the government refused to reveal in full despite being asked by industry and news media alike, is the …

  1. DJO Silver badge

    Missing the point

    OK so a drone strike won't end in fiery death for everybody. But it will result in the airframe being taken out of service for a though check which will cost possibly millions of pound for the work and provision of a replacement aircraft.

    Somebody will have to pay for that and I doubt the airlines insurers will be overjoyed with the prospect.

    1. Dave 15

      Re: Missing the point

      Nah, its just an excuse to bad something else... our government loves banning things, soon it will ban burps

      1. John 110
        Mushroom

        Re: Missing the point

        "... soon it will ban burps..."

        And so they bloody should! Global warming!! Greenhouse gases!!!

        1. Jimbo in Thailand
          Joke

          Re: Missing the point

          LOL! Be careful what you ask for John 110. If that gas can't come out the front it's going to have to come out the caboose! Are you ready for that 'fragrant' alternative?!

      2. Les Matthew

        Re: Missing the point

        What exactly are they banning?

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        "soon it will ban burps"

        The Governor of California signed a law to regulate cow burps. BTW, it's burps, not farts that are the biggest source of methane from animals.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing the point

      Agreed...Whilst its interesting results and the government and union have done themselves a disservice..

      This should not detract from the fact, that there are morons out there, who have flying these things in dangerous environments and not considering the consequence.

      I'm a drone owner and have been for quite some time, but I have 2 rules.. first, don't disturb people or animals, second, don't fly it anywhere that can cause a hazard or distraction.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        Just recently in New Zealand an idiot with a drone caused 5 helicopters fighting a scrub fire with monsoon buckets to be grounded while its flier was found and scragged and the drone grounded. Meanwhile the fire was burning merrily.

        Fortunately no built property was endangered or destroyed though a road was closed. The fire was successfully reduced to monitored smouldering once the choppers were able to fly again.

        However if people continue to try and get footage of such incidents they will continue to cause problems.

        It is the summer hols in NZ so lots of people out and about in the sunny outdoors on holiday with their Xmas pressies.

      2. JT163

        Re: Missing the point

        The real point is that governments are now willing to fake information in support of a special interest groups.

        Maybe the health department should re-assess the health effects of smoking using studies with similar rigour?

    3. veti Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Missing the point

      Governments, in general, love "doing things". They think it looks better on their CV than "not doing things". "Not doing things" leaves them open to attack from the Wail and the Depress about how they're leaving us all in danger. Doing "something", no matter how dumb, means that the tabloids have to abandon baseless fearmongering, they have a choice between "seriously thinking about the changes" and "moving on to the next thing", and that's always an easy choice for them.

      So governments are always strongly prejudiced in favour of action over inaction, even when inaction is the wiser as well as the cheaper course.

      1. sandman

        Re: Missing the point

        I'd love to see a new government taking a look around and saying. "Well, everything seems to be more or less OK, let's just kick back and relax unless something unpredictable happens".

      2. K Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Missing the point

        @Veti - "They think it looks better on their CV than "not doing things""

        Without government, we would be ruled by morons... ohhhh!! I withdraw my comment..

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        "So governments are always strongly prejudiced in favour of action over inaction, even when inaction is the wiser as well as the cheaper course"

        It's instructive to note that when Belgium had a hung parliament and went without a government for over a year, nothing bad happened and the country continued to run smoothly. Germany had their elections in September and are still without a government, and they're doing rather well.

      4. strum Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        >Governments, in general, love "doing things".

        And corporations love deregulation. Neither are to be trusted unconditionally. Neither should be dismissed out of hand.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      They sound like the sort of tests you do to ensure your drone does *not* do damage

      IE before you commit to a design.

      BTW 650 is 0.5 Mach, which is pretty damm fast near the ground.

      AFAIK the only aircraft with that sort of takeoff speed is the Skylon spaceplane. *

      *Which it won't do if if it's "self ferrying" to an equitorial spaceport and only be carrying LH2 for air breathing, hence about 160tonnes lighter than normal. 1

    5. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Missing the point

      @DJO

      With the greatest of respect you are using hyperbole to grossly inflate the perceived risk. This study suggests at best drone strike damage belongs in a similar category of risk to Bird and Lightning strikes, and in terms of likely frequency is a damn sight lower due to numbers if nothing else. Neither of the latter cost anything like millions to either the airline or the wider economy so there is no reason to suppose that a drone strike will.

      If you succumb to the temptation to use hyperbole you are really being no better than the twonks at the DfT. Don’t be fooled into a “won’t somebody think of the children” mode just because this is drone not paedo’s. Homo Sapiens are absolutely terrible at judging relative levels of risk so generally default to an “everything new is going to kill us” mode that was a survival trait on the African Plains but is a near liability now. Worry about the food you eat and the roads you use and a dozen other things before drone strikes.

      (source - 8 years working in the Airline business including Engineering and Maintenance - I’ve seen the results of strikes up close and personal and what happens when an aircraft is down checked.

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    Let's just accept that the UK

    doesn't do evidence based policy.

    Has everyone got that ?

    Great. Now we can stop wasting our time trying to influence policy with evidence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      No different to drugs policy in that respect. Or environment policy. Or energy policy. Or technology policy. Or paedoterrorist policy. Or privacy policy.

      Many Reg readers will be familiar with the scientific method. Unfortunately government follow the PPE three step method, which is (a) decide conclusion, (b) selectively backfit or invent evidence to support the conclusion, (c) obfuscate, deny and ignore proper factual or scientific evidence that shows the conclusion is bollocks.

    2. zapgadget

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      The clues in the name "conservatives". They don't like new things.

    3. tony72

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      Yeah, there's nothing like a dodgy dossier or two to ensure that the right policy decisions are made, eh? When will we learn?

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      Same over here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's just accept that the UK

        frankly, same over everywhere :/

    5. JLV Silver badge

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      Sadly, not just the UK is fond of morphing facts:

      http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/12/fight-over-seven-health-related-words-president-s-next-budget

    6. Phil W

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      "Let's just accept that the UK

      doesn't do evidence based policy."

      Honestly in some cases I'm happy to accept that, sometimes you have to legislate against things before they happen not after so there won't be evidence. You also have to consider legislating to protect the rest of us from the complete idiots out there. As long as it doesn't go too far and impinge on freedoms too much.

      Using the argument that the window won't break so you shouldn't legislate against drones is as daft as saying you could stop idiots with laser pointers blinding pilots by putting filters on the window so therefore you don't need to ban laser pointers or prosecute the people misusing them.

      Not to mention that just because your average drone won't smash through a cockpit window doesn't mean it won't do any kind of damage, or cause distraction that may result in an accident.

    7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      "doesn't do evidence based policy."

      Of course we do! We just always make sure to choose the "right" evidence. If the facts don't fit, find some more that do fit and adjust context as required.

    8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Let's just accept that the UK

      Nonsense.

      All the evidence required is clearly described and explained in the documentation, and by documentation I mean the cheque stapled to the covering letter.

  3. Queeg

    Have to say

    Myth Busters have better testing regimes.

    The Government seem only to had gotten the Myth bit right.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Have to say

      Strictly speaking the testing regime was fine it's the write up that is a bit dubious.

      Having seen a presentation by the lead engineer on the study and read the un-redacted report I'm a bit confused by the governments approach on this. There's plenty in there to indicate there is some danger to aircraft and that some sensible mitigation measures could be applied. But they've decided to go all secret squirrel and use it to justify measures that, in my opinion, aren't going to do anything constructive and I don't see it being obviously vote winning or in anyone's vested interest.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Have to say

        But they've decided to go all secret squirrel and use it to justify measures that, in my opinion, aren't going to do anything constructive

        So legislative business as usual then.

        Presumably these registrations and safety testing will be accompanied by some nominal fee and the fines for non-compliance will be rather substantial. I won't be surprised when they roll out graduated registration fees based on drone weight, number of motors, rotors, or blades, power source (lithium! OMG!), etc. Let's be honest, we'll all be much safer and able to sleep soundly at night knowing the government coffers are as heavily padded as possible.

        1. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: Have to say

          "Presumably these registrations and safety testing will be accompanied by some nominal fee and the fines for non-compliance will be rather substantial"

          But most of the "offenders" won't have the money to pay the fines and so there won't be any money in this for government, as usual it will cost more tax-payers money to enforce than it will make in revenue, especially if they end up damaging the market and losing VAT on the lost sales.

          The motivations seem a bit unclear, maybe they just want to have a monopoly on peering over garden fences...

      2. goldcd

        Hmm

        Approach of firing the drone out of a canon, at a static windshield is not great - mainly as to make it fireable you need to change it significantly to the point it's no longer representative.

        Screen on a rocket sled/steam catapult/something that makes it move - and then just fly the drone of choice into it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm

          "Screen on a rocket sled/steam catapult/something that makes it move - and then just fly the drone of choice into it."

          Er, no.

          All you have to achieve in this type of test is the correct *relative* velocity. It does *not* matter which part is moving. Or are you seriously suggesting that decades of bird impact testing for planes and trains is *all* invalid?

        2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          Even your approach, being better, is not as good as what is needed: the full front of an airliner on a sled as aerodynamics are important.

          Then you could properly test it.. but it would be expensive.

          The testing, while bad, seems better than we thought last time, good job reg for obtaining something.

          I guess we all knowthat going for the windshield is not the true target, so my educated guess is that this is FUD and they are actually worried about the other critical part. And testing that would be many millions.. and they dont want to do it.

          The UK government SHOULD make an agreement with other governments a do a joint study with other governments.. but somehow I feel that they dont believe that much in international cooperation. The components of airliners are basically the same all over the world, and the savings would be huge.

          I will keep with the spirit of the article and not say the part of the plane that is most vulnerable... but yes, we all know.

      3. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Have to say

        "I'm a bit confused by the governments approach on this. There's plenty in there to indicate there is some danger to aircraft and that some sensible mitigation measures could be applied."

        Yeah, this is the part that really confuses me about the whole thing. You don't need to cause an airliner to instantly explode in a massive Hollywood fireball for there to be a problem worth taking note of. There's plenty of evidence that drones can cause costly damage to large aircraft, and potentially fatal damage to lighter aircraft and helicopters. So why not just say that and be done with it? There's absolutely no need to scribble over everything with a black felt-tip while telling blatant lies about it all, when the truth gives all the motivation you need to propose whatever rules you want. Whether those rules would actually do anything to help with either the real or imaginary problems is a different matter, of course.

        As a side note, this has been pointed out pretty much every time El Reg has commented on the matter, but there absolutely are drones designed to carry full-size DSLR cameras. There are plenty of issues with the tests, and especially the reporting afterwards, so perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on the real problems and not keep banging on about one of the perfectly valid parts.

  4. JonHendry

    Shouldn't the engines be more of a concern than the windows?

    "The 4kg “projectile” (the term is the one used by the study’s authors) was made up of a number of loosely drone-related components, including arms from quadcopters – and, strangely, a full-sized SLR camera, something not found on commercially available camera drones"

    Oh? Not found?

    https://www.dji.com/spreading-wings-s1000-plus

    "DJI Spreading Wings S1000+

    Your DSLR in Flight"

    Just because they don't bundle the DSLR doesn't mean there aren't drones on the market that are made to carry a DSLR.

    I'm not sure what your issue is with this test. It's a perfectly reasonable approximation of a high-speed collision with a large drone. If a large DSLR-carrying drone enters a jet engine it is rapidly going to become a loose assortment of parts, each of which may have the potential to cause damage.

    An airliner was taken out of service for 5 hours for inspection when an old lady threw *coins* into the engine. I'm pretty sure coins weigh less than 250g.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn't the engines be more of a concern than the windows?

      'Shouldn't the engines be more of a concern than the windows?'

      Airliners are designed to fly* with one engine inoperative, so although a drone strike could** take one out of action there's no real risk to life. The 5 hour inspection would be because you need a borescope or similar to check the latter stages in the compressor/turbine for damage and then there's paperwork...

      *From a certain point in the take-off run through all stages of flight back to a successful landing.

      **Depending on what happens it's not inconceivable that the engine could operate in a reduced thrust capacity.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shouldn't the engines be more of a concern than the windows?

      Replace the DSLR with 750gr of C4 or Semtex and you have a whole new attack vector for terrorists.

      Drones are one heck of a lot cheaper than RPG's or shoulder launched missiles and far easier to transport around the place. I would not wanted to fly a chopper in Northern Ireland if the IRA had access to drones.

      Yes, I'm looking on the doom and gloom side but... would you want to find out that your loved one(s) was/were on a plane that was taken down by a drone? You would rightly want heads of the people who allowed the flying of drones delivered to you on a plate.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Shouldn't the engines be more of a concern than the windows?

        I don't believe that a drone is a practical weapon against a flying airliner, even one armed with explosive, just too difficult and risky to get it on target.

        It would be so much easier to use a drone with a dangerous payload against a large public gathering, crowd such as a sports event. Two or three drones attacking in quick sequence could do some serious primary damage and as much trouble in the ensuing panic.

        The risk to airliners from drones is mostly the possibility of accident.

      2. Brangdon

        Re: Semtex

        This isn't about banning drones entirely, it is about requiring owners to register them and have training. So the proposed legislation will not stop a terrorist from acquiring a drone and weaponising it. They could steal it, register under a false name, remove identifying marks or just not care what happens after their atrocity has succeeded.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Semtex

          No legislation will stop a terrorist or any other criminal for that matter. Consider how easy it is to build a drone from parts and ingredients for improvised explosives aren't that difficult to come across. Legislation making it difficult to buy cold medicine in the US didn't win the drug war it just shifted the problem of meth overdoses to fentanyl laced heroine.

          Most legislation typically has one of two functions but may contain both as bills hang around and get amended. Fundamentally laws largely either punish people after the fact because they didn't conform or it punishes law abiding taxpayers before the fact so somebody can profit with a wink and a nod.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But does it need to break to create a risk?

    "the risk posed was far less alarming than both the union and the Department for Transport had claimed. Instead of penetrating cockpit windows, rigorous tests of drones launched against"

    I'm not so sure I'd support that theory. Because even if the windows only get cracked instead of broken there's still plenty of damage being done. Not necessarily physical damage (as demonstrated in the study) but the pilot(s) are still at risk for getting exposed to some severe distraction.

    Sure, that doesn't have to immediately result in a major crash, but it's still a risk factor which I think should not be taken too casually, as seems to be done here.

    Of course I still think a general drone registration seems a bit off and only diverts the attention away from the real problem. I mean... Do you really think that a regular drone used somewhere in-land (say 100km away from the nearest airfield) could pose a risk for any airplanes? I somewhat doubt that.

    Instead of requiring people to register, why don't they uphold better security measures around airfields and actually enforce those? So: if you spot someone operating a drone near an airfield then you fine him for endangering air safety. Surely it should be doable with todays technical standards to pick up any signals which are used to operate a drone and then take according action?

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

      "(say 100km away from the nearest airfield)"

      I doubt that there's much of the country that's more than 100km from an airfield.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

        I doubt that there's much of the country that's more than 100km from an airfield.

        If we interpret "airfield" as "commercial airport", then you could get away with it in most of the Scottish Highlands, the far west (Devon/Cornwall), and possibly some small area of the Cotswolds.

        If we're going to include private and military airfields, though - well, I can't even find a map of those. (And I suspect looking too hard would probably get me added to a watchlist.)

        I think a no-fly zone within about 10 km of an airport would be something like reasonable. 100 km seems overly conservative.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

          Its not just teh airports, its the fligt paths.

          Planes can be surprisingly low on a flight path even if not very close to the airport.

          I'm a lot more than 10 km from nearest airports, but a "****, that's low" comment is not exactly unusual

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

          "If we're going to include private and military airfields, though - well, I can't even find a map of those. (And I suspect looking too hard would probably get me added to a watchlist.)"

          It's not a problem getting sectional maps for aircraft. They always list MOA's (Military Operating Areas), FBO's (Fixed Base Operators) and all manner of airports and helipads. Every pilot needs to know where they can and cannot fly and where they need permission to use the airspace. Airspace is also three dimensional so you have to know what restrictions there are for flying at a given altitude.

          The drone license for commercial operation in the US requires passing a test on interpreting the maps. The requirement of putting an identifying number on the drone has one back and forth but I think it's back on again and might be required for both commercial and hobby operation. There is a whole lot of stupid in the US when it comes to drones. Just search "drone fail" on YouTube and be amazed at the people that shouldn't be allow outside of an institution. The best/worst videos usually have the line, "Here, hold my beer". somewhere in them.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

          "I think a no-fly zone within about 10 km of an airport would be something like reasonable. 100 km seems overly conservative."

          In the US, it's 5nm or just under 10km. A problem is that when you look at a pilot's map, you quickly see that in many cities, there are only a few city blocks that aren't within 10km of an "airport" since "airport" includes helipads at hospitals, the roofs of large office buildings, fire service facilities, police heliports, etc. A real estate photographer showed a map of his service area in Florida with circles around each "airport" and it left very little legal space to fly without having to file a special notice in advance (NOTAM or NOtice To AirMen).

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

      The windows 'only' get cracked -- and you might have a pilot or co-pilot totally freaked out by a major BANG and window suddenly a mass of cracks. We know that pilot error causes accidents, so why allow something that only Nigel the Nerveless will be able to shrug off as he takes off or lands?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

        A goose hitting the windscreen at 200mph will equally make a loud bang, if not louder.

        1. Evil_Goblin
          Joke

          Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

          Quite right, ban all geese farming within 100km of an airport :D

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: But does it need to break to create a risk?

          A goose hitting the windscreen at 200mph will equally make a loud bang, if not louder.

          Maybe, but a goose is wildlife, you cannot just legislate wildlife away.

          Here, we are talking spoiled and thick brats operating drones in areas they should not. I have absolutely 0 empathy for these. The takeoff and landing phases are the busiest moments in the cockpit, you really do not want some punks distracting pilots landing or taking off, ever. I do not care if they can damage the aircraft or not, that is entirely besides the point, they distract pilots at critical moments and that is not acceptable.

          I would go with "confiscation of equipment" and fine. If they are caught again, slammer. This is crazy and has to stop.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I'm reading this and other reports on this. It sure does seem to me that a) one side wants to allow drones near or in airports and b) the other set up the tests to validate the assumption that drones near airports are dangerous. There's obviously two sides with pre-conceived beliefs they want proven which seems to be the norm these days in the political world. What's really needed is some serious independent testing with no pre-conceived notions.

    I'm not a drone owner but personally, I wouldn't want to see drones flying over airports.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Personally I'm no fan of drones, either, but I think you're mistaken that "one side wants to allow drones near airports". A tiny minority of fuckwits will wish to fly their drones wherever they please, the majority of drone owners are sufficiently sensible to understand the risk and the need to avoid airports and other sensitive areas. Those fuckwits aren't taking any side in this debate, they neither know nor care that it is even being held.

      And when government pass this legislation regardless, those same fuckwits won't be registering their drones, and won't obey the (existing) rules. So the government proposals are expensive, pointless bureaucracy, that affect the law abiding drone users, without stopping the idiots, AND as the article explains, the justification is essentially half-baked. We've had radio controlled aircraft for many decades, with few problems; the hysteria over drones looks to be founded on the idiocy of a tiny number of incidents where morons are playing with drones mostly because they're new and techy. And more than a few of the near miss reports are unproven - they could refer to helium balloons or chinese lanterns. Think of the moral panic over 3D printed guns. This phase will pass, the morons will move on to misuse some new toy, and the world will move on with fewer drones, used for specific purposes by competent hobbyists. We don't need a drone register.

      1. To Mars in Man Bras!
        Big Brother

        Plus Ça Change

        >> A tiny minority of fuckwits will wish to fly their drones wherever they please, the majority of drone owners are sufficiently sensible

        This is pretty much a template for British government policies down the years. Insert almost anything you like for "XXX":

        1; A tiny minority of fuckwits will wish to XXX, the majority of XXX are sufficiently sensible

        2: Government outlaws/licenses/legislates XXX and completely ruins it for the majority of sensible people

        3: Minority of fuckwitts ignore bans/licenses/legislation and carry on their XXX fuckwittery as before

        4: Government makes wodges of cash from licensing / prosecuting / taxing sensible people who still want to do XXX

        5: Amount of undesireable XXX activity unchanged.

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: Plus Ça Change

          > Insert almost anything you like for "XXX":

          My current favourite value for XXX is DIY home electrics.

          1. tomban

            Re: DIY home electrics.

            I often cry when I see what 'competent' qualified installed have left behind.

            Sure, it's safe* and signed-off, but some have no pride in their work.

            *maybe

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        " Think of the moral panic over 3D printed guns. This phase will pass, the morons will move on to misuse some new toy, and the world will move on with fewer drones, used for specific purposes by competent hobbyists. We don't need a drone register."

        True, RC helis and planes have been around for years, soon da kids will realise a drone is a remote controlled helicopter, and not a new cool thing.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          A drone is a remote controlled helicopter that requires far less skill to fly.

      3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        @LedSwinger

        You could make that same argument about guns - guns are safe in the hands of sensible people, the law won't stop criminals one bit etc. etc - this is basically the NRA playbook.

        Except that, in the real world, guns kill a lot of people in the US where this line of reasoning is accepted, and not many in the UK where it is not and guns are essentially banned. At the very least this implies that it's not quite as simple as you make out, and - again, following the gun analogy - it there is to be a register or restrictions on sale and use, it should be done early before the horse has bolted.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "We've had radio controlled aircraft for many decades, with few problems; t"

        The difference is that previously, flying a model aircraft took skill and nearly all participants joined a club and organization that had flying safety codes that members where expected to adhere to. The clubs operated a flying field that mostly limited hobby craft to a well known location and members could be tossed out for being reckless. Most parks ban model aircraft flying for the safety of other people using the park and to not have annoying buzzing engines all over the place.

        Drones take very little skill to keep in the air and will often sort themselves out with the push of a button if the "pilot" gets themselves in trouble. Therein lies the problem. It's the sword vs. gun issue. A sword takes strength and skill to use effectively and a gun doesn't much at all. With a model aircraft, chances are that the first few times a new pilot takes to the air it isn't going to end well and they have to spend time and money to gain enough competency to keep the airplane flying for any length of time and to get it to go where they want it to. Fire up a drone and just twiddle the joysticks and most can generally manage to keep it up and flying in the general direction they want until the battery goes flat.

        1. M Gale

          Doesn't everyfuckwit's favourite brand DJI geofence airports anyway?

          Drone regulations in the UK: A solution looking for a problem. Go run in a wheat field, May.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "one side wants to allow drones near or in airports"

      I see it as one side (The Man) wants to pass laws with stiff penalties and needs physical evidence that it's possibly a danger to allow drones around other aircraft. The other side wants to do whatever they damn well please and the filth can just bugger off.

  7. SMabille

    UK gov impact studies (again)

    Obviously UK gov really got an issue publishing valid, qualitative, non redacted impact studies in excruciating details....

    1. zapgadget
      Coat

      Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

      As JimmyPage said above, the govt doesn't seem to do evidence-based policymaking. Which makes me wonder about, well, everything they've ever done.

      If they're not doing things because there is evidence that they work, why are they doing things?

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

        "If they're not doing things because there is evidence that they work, why are they doing things?"

        Same old same old. They're doing it because they think it will please the larger number of people.

        Evidence from scientists is only useful if it backs up evidence from pollsters.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

          "They're doing it because they think it will please the larger number of people"

          They're doing it because they think it will please influential people to whom they owe a current or future job.

          FTFY

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

            They're doing it because they think it will please influential people to whom they owe a current or future job.

            Exactly. Revolving Doors, or a seat in the House of Lords. Or both. Politicians rarely seem to be doing what they have been elected for these days, that is represent their constituents.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

        "If they're not doing things because there is evidence that they work, why are they doing things?"

        To satisfy a campaigning vested interest, lobby group, or media hype. Sometimes it is because an MP has been elected on the strength of their party loyalty or populist appeal - rather than any ability to hold rational thoughts.

      3. jfm

        Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

        I forget where I first heard it but I think the expression you need is "policy-based evidence-making".

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: UK gov impact studies (again)

          "Policy-based evidence", exactly.

          That's what democracy means: decisions are meant to reflect the will of the masses, not "scientific evidence".

          Some rosy-eyed idealogues seem to think that the masses should want evidence-based policy, thus happily resolving this apparent conflict. Unfortunately, as we all know,"should" and "will" are orthogonal.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UAVs pose less of a risk to airliners than government officials

    That's probably right.

    Back on topic it seems to me the limit for registration is being artificially kept low to increase revenues to the government. If the smallest weight was 1.2kg then why set it at 250g? I also question who the government will approve to do the mandatory safety tests.

    Something amiss with all this and using "because terrorists" to hide from scrutiny is a tactic many governments have used for whatever reasons for a lot of legislation.

    1. Simon_E

      Why 250g?

      Perhaps because that's the US weight limit for registering drones.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Why 250g?

        The US limit is 25kg.

    2. Red Bren
      Trollface

      "UAVs pose less of a risk to airliners than government officials"

      Can we fire a few ministers at aircraft windows and put the rest on a register of who owns them?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I blame Brexit

    No wait, what?

  10. grizewald
    FAIL

    Redaction for the sake of it

    The document is so heavily redacted "because terrorists"?

    Give me a break. There are far simpler ways to take down aircraft than flying drones into them.

    If anyone needed proof of the fact that government repeatedly uses nonsense to prevent people reading the truth of reports that taxpayers have paid for, this is the best ever.

  11. lnLog
    Holmes

    literature review

    Thre is enough information out there in research papers and company product documentation in combination with open source FEA tools to allow someone to make an engineering approximation of the mass, strength / stiffness and velocity required to breach any given structure. The redaction just weeds out the less competent.

  12. Dwarf Silver badge

    What happens if you freeze them ?

    Seem to recall that there is some previous testing done with turkeys and a missive to "defrost the bird" due to testing not going the way it was planned on the first test cycle.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: What happens if you freeze them ?

      Proven myth. Time to let it die already.

    2. fredj

      Re: What happens if you freeze them ?

      British Rail and it was was chickens if I remember the news at the the time. Also, I think it was quite a few tests before a consultant was asked to look at the situation.That was when they thought they could build super high speed tilting train. The attempt was parked in the sidings.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What happens if you freeze them ?

        "That was when they thought they could build super high speed tilting train. The attempt was parked in the sidings."

        All down to politics and lack of will to spend money. The tech was sold off and now we import Pendelino trains based on it. SOP for UK inventions.

  13. Kernel Silver badge

    Invalid testing proceedure?

    Ity seems to me that it could be argued that the testing procedure used was invalid, at least for windscreens.

    According the the report, the objects were launched towards a stationary windscreen, whereas in actual flight the effect is much more a case of the windscreen being launched towards a relatively stationary object. Presumably some minor effort is put into designing modern airliners so that they have a smooth airflow around them, which I would expect to lift something as light as a hobby grade drone well away from the windscreen before it had a chance to impact it. If you've ever traveled in the rain, in an open top sports car at any reasonable speed, then you've seen this principle at work -yes, the drones are heavier that raindrops, but then the air velocity is much higher as well.

    This would not prevent engine ingestion of a drone however - the business of a jet engine is to suck in as much air as possible, including anything that might be floating in it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Invalid testing proceedure?

      "I would expect to lift something as light as a hobby grade drone"

      You'd have thought a lightweight bird or a large hailstone would be deflected too, wouldn't you?

      Unfortunately, real physics is not that kind, and therefore we have to impact test against these threats.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Generally piloted by twats though

    so really this is quite a good thing.

  15. anothercynic Silver badge

    The DSLR...

    ... The DSLR is included in the 'shot' because larger drones (i.e. *not* a DJI or a Parrot) handle digital cameras. We *know* that a dinky DJI probably won't do damage, but a 3 foot commercial video/camera drone can, especially when it has a Canon 5D MkII or something else with a light yet strong metal body attached to it. But the Drone Act is stupidity. Utter stupidity.

  16. mtp
    Headmaster

    Weight vs Mass

    "weigh more than 250g". Sloppy terminology. For measuring onions in a market with a balance then you can get away with calling mass weight (although physicists cringe) but for a drone that flies up and down and could be anywhere in the world then there is no universal way to convert mass (g) to weight (N).

    Is there a standard acceleration to convert mass to weight? If so what happens if you live somewhere at one of the extremes where this varies? Can you buy gold at the equator (low g) and sell it at high latitude (high g) ? Mass is the same but weight will be different. This gives me a idea...!

    There are industries where you can get away with this kind of sloppiness but aviation is not one of them.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The government must do the right thing and release the full study.

    or else... what?

  18. technoise

    Asymmetry

    Just putting my paranoid X-Files hat on, but...

    Has anyone considered the outrageous and extremely unlikely hypothesis that maybe those in power want to be the ones with the drone technology and not us, and that if any of us can obtain anything with any serious capability, they might just want to be able to keep tabs on us?

    After all, they seemed so reluctant to give us CB radio when it was popular. The Internet got under their radar, but maybe they might not want to let that kind of thing happen again.

    All of the above, which I have written, is obviously an outrageous paranoid fantasy, presented for your amusement before being rightfully dismissed, and I am sure our government always act in our interests, like a concerned parent.

  19. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    The Result of Government Accepting Payoffs (Donations) From Pilot Associations

    British pilots, and their unions, have been vociferous opponents to anyone but anyone sharing 'their' airspace.

    Most all of the pilot complaints have been anecdotal reports of 'drones' flying at heights when pilots simply do not have the facilities, or time, to properly identify something they are passing at hundreds of miles per hour.

    Furthermore, the country with a far higher aircraft-to-drone ratio than the UK has far fewer sightings as their pilots don't lie. Sure, there was recently a drone / helicopter collision reported recently where the drone 'dented' one of the elements of the rotors but the helicopter carried on and landed safely.

    My employer develops drones for military purposes - dropping nasty things on opponents - and we have flown drones into windmills used to generate power, propellers attached to engines fixed to runway concrete and even in a wind tunnel. On no occasion have the objects our drones were in collision with caused disabling damage.

    The airflow over the skin of an aircraft is smoothly handled to minimise perturbations in the air and since drones share the same air, they are carried over, or under, the aircraft. I have seen no reports of any tests actually firing a drone in to a jet engine.

    The British government is relying on a 'bent' experiment, that had pilot union participation. that cannot in any way shape or form be described as scientific.

    Why do the commercial aircraft operators have so many interactions with Unidentified Flying Objects, and the military, who zoom across the otherwise quiet Shires of the Home Counties disturbing cows and dozing senior citizens, do not have reports?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The study also looked at what happens when drones collide with helicopter windscreens

    I'd actually love to see a drone get even vaguely close to a helicopter screen, the downwash from those rotors would send anything coming close heading in a rapidly downward direction... Unless it was propelled against the screen by being drawn through the rotors from above, which would have me more concerned about their ability to withstand strikes than the windscreen!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I'd actually love to see a drone get even vaguely close to a helicopter screen, the downwash from those rotors would send anything coming close heading in a rapidly downward direction...

      Even a helicopter at 120MPH?

      http://www.ktrs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Helicopter-Bird-strike.jpg

      1. Steve Evans

        That is quite impressive, although I'm curious to know the physics involved, especially for those birds that hit high up the windscreen.

        It does however highlight an issue... Namely that drones aren't exactly the biggest problem the helicopter pilot had, birds were... That helicopter screen wouldn't have passed the bird strike test used on airlines let alone having a 3kg DLSR fired at it, so a little unfair to be levelling all the responsibility on the DSLR thrower/carrier.

  21. Soul assassin

    Government is just licensing anything they think they can get away with, and charging for all of them. They think quadcopter pilots are an easy cash cow. All they have to do is make sure the public call them drones, and we're all immediately either terrorists or pervs. Public outcry, ban or license. Hurray easy money!!!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Don't do evidence-based policymaking"

    See: BREXIT

  23. wumble

    cracked

    Is an Airbus with a cracked windscreen still safe?

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: cracked

      Being alive is not "safe", nor will it ever be. With a whopping 100% mortality rate, it's only a question of timing. Alternatively, even an airliner with not only one full windscreen panel completely missing and one of the pilots halfway hanging out of the aircraft while the other and a steward are trying to get him back in is apparently still safe enough. No evil terrorists needed, just the ever-so-slightly wrong sized bolts.

  24. DougS Silver badge

    Birdstrike

    Most of the time when a jet hits a bird nothing bad happens other than having to make an emergency landing and rebook passengers. Yet airports take measures to try to minimize the possibility of birdstrike despite the low risk to life and limb. They should do the same for drones, and not let people say "hey it can't penetrate the windshield so there's nothing to worry about!"

    Better safe than sorry - and that still frame showing the impact looks pretty bad even if it doesn't manage to break through. People sometimes drop stuff off overpasses at cars traveling below, most of the time it something like a soda that won't break through the windshield. Doesn't prevent drivers from being momentarily scared and maybe doing something dumb. Do you want your pilot to be momentarily scared and do something dumb on final approach 30' above the ground?

  25. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    Fragile

    You all seem to think that modern aircraft are tough. Think again, they are light and flimsy although they are tougher than in the olden days thanks to modern materials. If a jet engine swallows a large drone there is a good chance that the engine will be damaged and could affect the safety of the plane. Drones, unlike birds, have some VERY hard parts (motors, magnets) in them. If a drone gets stuck in the flaps or other control surfaces it can compromise the pilots control of the plane and due to their shape and the materials used they are more likely to snag than a bird. I don't get this obsession with the windscreen. There are far more vulnerable parts on a plane than that.

    As for the drone defenders, if you have a better way to prevent idiots from flying drones near aircraft, do tell. We already have a similar problem with ****heads pointing lasers at planes.

  26. EBG

    sadly

    The distortion of the output of studies procured by Government is now systemic. It's a slick, well oiled process. The rot started with privatisation and quangos. Previously, there was a scientific civil service, which included the precursors to Qinetic. Not perfect, by any means. But 1) there was a civil service ethic and 2) the minister was directly accountable to Parliament fo rthe civil service output.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a whining article

    The whole article appears to be a whine about the use of a 4Kg 'projectile' used against a plane, but then concedes that a 1.2Kg drone holes a helicopter. From the article:

    "The 250g lower weight limit for registration was, as far as can be divined from the study report, simply not tested; the lowest weight category picked was 1.2kg, and while that drone smashed through helicopter windscreens, it did not penetrate an A320 windscreen."

    So unless you are happy with helicopters being vulnerable, the 4Kg object is irrelevant: drones need to be regulated at a weight at least below 1.2Kg.

    I'm guessing none of us commentards know how resilient a helicopter window 'not certified for birdstrike' (as per the article) might be, but it sounds to me like they decided that any drone of a mass comparable to a bird like a gull or something could be dangerous if deliberately or negligently flown into the path of such a helicopter, and so are now requiring registration for such devices. This doesn't sound like either incompetence or a conspiracy to me.

    Incidentally, having a 'kids toy' drone of my own, they don't weight anywhere near 250g until the kid concerned is a very rich kid indeed...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Forgotten Issue

    As a General Aviation pilot, I'm irritated that everyone is obsessed with whether or not a drone can bring down an airliner. Anyone who flies light aircraft or helicopters is at much greater risk of encountering a drone because we spend more time at lower altitudes, and with a sheet of plexiglass rather than a triple-glazed reinforced windscreen between me and the outside world, I'm also much more likely to be joined in the cabin by any drone that comes into contact with it.

    As far as saying that helicopters are at risk of drone strikes "potentially causing life-changing injuries or worse to their pilots", you should remember that ANY injury to ANY pilot flying without a second carries a significant risk of causing a fatal accident. I could be carrying 3 passengers, so a drone that comes through my windshield risks the deaths of 4 people. It's not in the same league as bringing down an airliner carrying 150, but that doesn't mean it should simply be disregarded, any more than you would ignore road safety for anything smaller than buses and coaches.

    Drones are only supposed to be operated up to 400ft AGL in the UK. General Aviation, apart from a few exceptions, is restricted to flying ABOVE 500ft, except when taking off and landing, so the exclusion zones required around airfields is small - perhaps a 2-3 mile radius, ASSUMING people (drone operators AND pilots) fly legally. And there's the rub - people DON'T stick to the rules about flying drones any more than they stick to the speed limit on the roads. If we pilots risk lives by breaking rules then the CAA will track us down and prosecute. Without some sort of drone registration a drone operator can do pretty much whatever they like and get away with it - this has been borne out by various stories of late where the operator was never identified.

    Of course, the legislation will be rubbish, it won't please anyone, and it'll cost too much to implement, because that's what governments inevitably produce. Plus, how are you going to identify people who DON'T register their drone?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The Forgotten Issue

      "Plus, how are you going to identify people who DON'T register their drone?"

      What is does help is those that are flying drones commercially for estate agents and to inspect structures. In the US the fine to somebody hiring an unlicensed operator is 10x hirer than what the operator will be fined. I think the idea there is to discourage people hiring unlicensed operators to save a few quid. If an operator is found to have been operating recklessly, they can have their license suspended or revoked and if they can't find well paying work with people that don't check, they will value their license more. Although, some may have to lose their license at least once to get the message.

      The probability is pretty low that somebody hiring an unlicensed operator or the operator are going to get caught if there isn't a problem. It could happen if a neighbor gets concerned and calls the police or the drone winds up in power lines and the power company is called out to get it down. That's when it's over. A PC that knows that a drone should have a registration number might just start asking more questions and the power company won't be pleased with the expense of sending a crew around. A kid's stray balloon or kite is one thing, but presented with an unregistered drone that they expect was being operated commercially might have the supervisor looking to find somebody to bill for the work.

      I'd like to offer drone photography, but the estate agents in my area don't care about hiring licensed pilots and that doesn't work for me. I have a home and worked hard to buy nice things so a whopping fine is a problem if I would be caught. My business insurance specifically doesn't cover operating a drone and wouldn't even with a supplement if I wasn't licensed.

  29. HKmk23

    Remember when

    CB radios "were not in the public interest to have communications freely available to the public"

    Stress analysers (lie detectors) "are not in public interest to be freely available"

    Firearm pistols "not in the public interest" (they won that one)

    Sorry guys, you are living in a semi communist police state in the UK.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Remember when

      Everyone on the planet is. Some places are just more straightforward about it than others. As far as the Powers That Be everywhere are concerned, nothing that empowers the masses to any degree is in the public interest. Cattle should not aspire to be empowered.

  30. darklord

    for once i agree with the goverment

    I agree to licensing drones and model aircraft , helicopters. I think the study misses the point Airliners are one thing but this also applies to small aircraft who don't have the same thick windscreens as a commercial airliner flying at 500 MPH.

    So a twat loses his toy, but a person can lose their life due to these things being buzzed around.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: for once i agree with the goverment

      "So a twat loses his toy, but a person can lose their life due to these things being buzzed around."

      If you've ever seen what it costs to fix anything on an aircraft, you know that even a little dent or cracked windscreen on a Cessna is an expensive thing. A piece taken out of a propeller can mean a new propeller is required. Expensive damage is far more likely than a fatal crash.

  31. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Crap science, right direction

    Technically, the study is near-worthless. But ii is obvious enough that we don't want to wait for a disaster before acting and the measures being introduced are sensible enough.

    Ask a scientist what it will take to establish the risks to say five sigmas of probability and they will say something like "twenty years and a lot of money". We can't wait for the good science, we just have to use our common sense and apply political gilding to whatever turd that bad science has ejected to date.

  32. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Bag and cat long separated here.

    I met someone recently who was working on commercial drones and it was fascinating to talk to him, He was working on drones that had valid commercial uses - I've got a bit of guttering that is only accessible by drone or several thousand pounds worth of scaffolding. But the military implications were quite scary in the sense that the technology was there to make cheap cruise missiles.

    A friend of mine brought his drones up for a play on the local beech which is massive at the right tides and everything in it is off the shelf and open source and I dare say almost anyone whose been to half a dozen RaspberryPi jams would probably be capable of making something that will breach any and all regulations and the only way to stop this is to stop people being allowed any form of toys or education, We're half way there but I'd rather we could educate people not to do stupid things than just stop educating them.

  33. fredj

    Thats all very nice but what if drones go into each of the engines? A long shot I know but for a serious attack a 'cluster' of drones could be launched.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Thats all very nice but what if drones go into each of the engines? A long shot I know but for a serious attack a 'cluster' of drones could be launched."

      I suspect that even under ideal conditions, targeting a jet engine intake with any sense of reliability is going to be TOUGH. Doing it to two simultaneously will be near as dammit impossible.

      Consider. Working in 3D space at distance enough that your drone(s) are mere specks aiming for a target maybe about 10' diameter (and also little more than a speck) with no background reference objects for ranging or perspective and said target is moving at 200+knots.

    2. M Gale

      If you're contemplating attacking anything with quadcopters, you're probably not worried too much about local regulations beyond not getting caught.

  34. Haku
    FAIL

    Registration.

    Only the responsible will register, those who don't are either unaware of the need or they plan on doing something bad.

    The list will not help the police when an unregistered owner does something bad, they'll likely target the innocents on the list because they live in the area of the incedent, meaning drone owners will have to account for their whereabouts at all times.

    Also, what if a registered owner is flying their drone in a certain area and an unregistered owner causes an incedent with theirs in the same area and at the same time - the registered owner will need strong evidence to prove their innocence, whilst the unregistered owner will likely get off scott free because the police don't have them on the list...

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Registration.

      The police aren't going to be looking on a list of registered craft in an area. They will be looking at the registration number on the craft or what's left of it. If there is somebody they catch flying like an A-hole and their copter isn't registered, they can hand out a nice fine and possibly confiscate the drone too.

      The main reason is that registration means that they can track back the owner if they collect the drone at an accident site. It's the same reason that cars were made to have number plates on and be registered. Something happens and they know who to go looking for but they don't pinch everybody in a 6 block radius that owns a white 4-door Ford because a witness to a crime says they saw one tearing away.

  35. riverrock83

    Remember the wee aircraft too!

    Most aircraft in the UK aren't airliners, but much smaller aircraft (96% of UK registered aircraft), with 1 to 4 seats, with a perspex windscreen, normally travelling below 2000 feet and going at 50 to 150 mph. They are very vulnerable to any flying object.

    Please

    - keep your drone below 400 feet (150 meters) (above which you can't see it clearly, so can't avoid things, and other aircraft generally stay above 500 feet)

    - keep it within your line of sight, (if you're using "First Person View", have someone else beside you, watching it who can warn you about avoiding things)

    - keep it more than 50 meters from people who aren't in your group and 150 meters from crowds or build up areas (to stay legal).

    - don't fly near airports.

    - don't invade other's privacy

  36. MrXavia

    This might deter a few idiots from flying a cheapo drone near airports and accidentally hitting a plane, but luckily these are mainly plastics and will cause negligible damage..

    Hobbyists and professionals with expansive heavy drones will follow the rules, because they do already and don't want their precious toy being broken..

    Those who want to fly something heavy into an aeroplane will do so anyway registration or not, no amount of legislation will prevent that, so active security measures are needed.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Hobbyists and professionals with expansive heavy drones will follow the rules, because they do already and don't want their precious toy being broken.."

      There are many videos on YouTube that put that statement to shame.

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