DJI is pretty pissed about that Phantom 2 drone collision research video

Last month, the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) released a video illustrating its research on the impact of a potential drone collision with manned aircraft.

It’s a pretty alarming video that has conjured up frightening headlines that don’t exactly put anyone who has ever ridden in a manned aircraft at ease.

The video, which illustrates a drone collision between a DJI Phantom 2 and a Mooney M20 manned aircraft, shows the Phantom drone ripping through one of the wings.

And no surprises here, but DJI is pretty pissed about it. The massive dronemaker, which manufacturers the Phantom 2 which was used for the study, released a statement, calling the University of Dayton Research Institute’s video “misleading” and “alarmist.”

“It is thus distressing to see how the University of Dayton Research Institute has recklessly created and promoted a video that falsely claims to depict a dangerous condition posed by one of our products,” according to an open letter by Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs at DJI.

Courtesy UDRI

Schulman added that the drone collision scenario depicted in UDRI’s research “is simply inconceivable in real life.”

The research leader, Kevin Poorman, said the study was done “to help the aviation community and the drone industry understand the dangers that even recreational drones can pose to manned aircraft before a significant event occurs.”

The FAA says it receives more than 100 reports a month of unmanned aircraft sightings, though anyone can report a sighting, and a sighting does not necessarily indicate a dangerous situation. And often times, objects initially reported as drones turn out to be balloons or trash bags.

To carry out the test, researchers fired a successful shot at the Mooney wing. The researchers then fired a similarly weighted gel “bird” into a different part of the wing to compare results.

“The bird did more apparent damage to the leading edge of the wing, but the Phantom penetrated deeper into the wing and damaged the main spar, which the bird did not do,” according to a statement from UDRI.

And DJI is not loving UDRI’s research. (Read more about UDRI’s research and their methods here.)

“UDRI staged its video to create a scenario inconceivable in real life, at a higher speed than the combined maximum speed of the drone and airplane,” according to a statement from DJI. “UDRI has not disclosed its testing methodology or the resulting data, and while it acknowledged that a similar test with a simulated bird caused “more apparent damage,” it has only promoted the video showing damage from a DJI drone.”

This is not the first time the drone industry has dealt with the repercussions around collisions and fear-mongering. The media is prone to publishing many hysterical articles implying that drones have collided with airplanes. A video from earlier this year ruffled feathers after it appeared to show a drone flying dangerously close to an airplane landing in Las Vegas, Nevada. The drone industry has largely tried to avoid government-imposed restrictions on piloting drones, and some fear that the Las Vegas incident coupled with studies like the one from UDRI could be the turning point on the government further cracking down on where drones cannot fly.

Schulman’s letter, written on behalf of DJI to UDRI, can be read in full at this link.


One Comment

  • Amy says:

    I fly manned aircraft as well as drone–this isn’t “fear-mongering.” The risks are very real, even if the odds are comparatively slim. While many drone operators are conscientious and aware of their surroundings, not all are. The technology in drones is incredible but it can’t fully account for all of the potential poor choices an operator might make.

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