AI News, Smaller Drones Aren’t Major Threat to Aircraft: A Little Birdie Told Me So

Smaller Drones Aren’t Major Threat to Aircraft: A Little Birdie Told Me So

Last December, a group of investors called the UAS America Fund petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to create a set of rules that would govern “micro unmanned aircraft.” The basic idea is that these microdrones—defined as being 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms)and under—pose much less of a hazard than many of the model aircraft now flying in the United States, which can weigh as much as 55 pounds (25 kilograms).

That report tries to quantify the threat such microdrones—a category that includes popular models like the DJI Phantom and 3DR Iris—would pose to full-scale aircraft using data the FAA has collected on collisions with birds.

US Airways Flight 1549, for example, suffered crippling damage to its engines on takeoff after it ran into a flock of Canadian geese, which can weigh as much as 18 pounds(8 kilograms).

According to the ensuing report of the National Transportation Safety Board, the helicopter involved crashednot because of an actual collision with one or more birds, but because the pilot took aggressive evasive actions to avoid a flock of birds and inadvertently overstressed his aircraft.

You see, the company running this helicopter-ferry service had had issues with the stock glass windshields on its helicopters delaminating, so they replaced them with aftermarket acrylic windshields, which according to the NTSB report hadn’t been tested for their resistance to bird strikes.

But despite that fact, and despite the enormous numbers of these creatures zooming around the sky, only very rarely do collisions with smaller varieties of birds kill people.

What’s more, if you only consider small- and medium-size bird strikes that occurred in places where microdrones would belikely allowed (below 400 feet altitude and more than 5 miles from an airport), the results don’t look at all alarming: the Exponent report says there have been zero fatalities and at most a handful of accidents with injuries.

(In the United States, piloted aircraft are supposed to fly above either 500 feet or 1000 feet above ground level, depending on how densely the area is populated.) So why not let drones of a size that pose comparatively little danger fly without imposing onerous restrictions on them?Any flub-ups that bring a full-sized aircraft and a microdrone to the same area and altitude are bound to be no more worrisome than the situation equivalently sized birds have long put aviators in.

SKYbrary Wiki

A bird strike is strictly defined as a collision between a bird and an aircraft which is in flight or on a take off or landing roll.

For smaller aircraft, significant damage may be caused to the aircraft structure and all aircraft, especially jet-engined ones, are vulnerable to the loss of thrust which can follow the ingestion of birds into engine air intakes.

Bird strikes may occur during any phase of flight but are most likely during the take-off, initial climb, approach and landing phases due to the greater numbers of birds in flight at lower levels.

Small, propeller-driven aircraft are most likely to experience the hazardous effects of strikes as structural damage, such as the penetration of flight deck windscreens or damage to control surfaces or the empennage.

In some cases, especially with smaller fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, windscreen penetration may result in injury to pilots or other persons on board and has sometimes led to loss of control.

A more likely cause of difficulty is impact damage to extended landing gear assemblies in flight, which can lead to sufficient malfunction of brakes or nose gear steering systems to cause directional control problems during a subsequent landing roll.

A relatively common but avoidable significant consequence of a bird strike on the take off roll is a rejected take off decision which is either made after V1 or which is followed by a delayed or incomplete response and which leads to a runway excursion off the end of the departure runway.

The opportunities to mitigate the risk of hazardous bird strikes in the first place are centred on airports, because this is where the greatest overall volume of conflict occurs, and because this is where management and control of the hazard is most easily achieved.

The ability of a large flock of relatively small birds to cause the crash of a large military transport aircraft, a type also used in many civilian roles, underscores the risks associated with bird strikes.

Bird strike

A bird strike—sometimes called birdstrike, bird ingestion (for an engine), bird hit, or bird aircraft strike hazard (BASH)—is a collision between an airborne animal (usually a bird or bat[1]) and a manmade vehicle, especially an aircraft.

The term is also used for bird deaths resulting from collisions with structures such as power lines, towers and wind turbines (see Bird–skyscraper collisions and Towerkill).[2] Bird strikes are a significant threat to flight safety, and have caused a number of accidents with human casualties.[3] The number of major accidents involving civil aircraft is quite low and it has been estimated that there is only about 1 accident resulting in human death in one billion (109) flying hours.[4] The majority of bird strikes (65%) cause little damage to the aircraft;[5] however the collision is usually fatal to the bird(s) involved.

These cause annual damages that have been estimated at $400 million[3] within the United States of America alone and up to $1.2 billion to commercial aircraft worldwide.[6] In addition to property damage, collisions between man-made structures and conveyances and birds is a contributing factor, among many others, to the worldwide decline of many avian species.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reported 65,139 bird strikes for 2011–14, and the Federal Aviation Authority counted 177,269 wildlife strike reports on civil aircraft between 1990 and 2015, growing 38% in 7 years from 2009 to 2015.

Bird strikes happen most often during takeoff or landing, or during low altitude flight.[8] However, bird strikes have also been reported at high altitudes, some as high as 6,000 m (20,000 ft) to 9,000 m (30,000 ft) above the ground.

An aircraft over the Ivory Coast collided with a Rüppell's vulture at the altitude of 11,300 m (37,100 ft), the current record avian height.[9] The majority of bird collisions occur near or on airports (90%, according to the ICAO) during takeoff, landing and associated phases.

According to the FAA wildlife hazard management manual for 2005, less than 8% of strikes occur above 900 m (3,000 ft) and 61% occur at less than 30 m (100 ft).[citation needed] The point of impact is usually any forward-facing edge of the vehicle such as a wing leading edge, nose cone, jet engine cowling or engine inlet.

The energy of a 5 kg (11 lb) bird moving at a relative velocity of 275 km/h (171 mph) approximately equals the energy of a 100 kg (220 lb) weight dropped from a height of 15 metres (49 ft).[10] However, according to the FAA only 15% of strikes (ICAO 11%) actually result in damage to the aircraft.[citation needed] Bird strikes can damage vehicle components, or injure passengers.

These samples need to be taken carefully by trained personnel to ensure proper analysis[12] and reduce the risks of infection (zoonoses).[13] Sacramento International Airport has had more bird strikes (1,300 collisions between birds and jets between 1990 and 2007, causing an estimated $1.6 million in damage) than any other California airport.

Sacramento International Airport has the most bird strikes of any airport in the west and sixth among airports in the US, according to the FAA, as it is located along the Pacific Flyway, a major bird migration path.[14][15] Most bird strikes involve large birds with big populations, particularly geese and gulls in the United States.

In parts of the US, Canada geese and migratory snow geese populations have risen significantly[16] while feral Canada geese and greylag geese have increased in parts of Europe, increasing the risk of these large birds to aircraft.[17] In other parts of the world, large birds of prey such as Gyps vultures and Milvus kites are often involved.[4] In the US, reported strikes are mainly from waterfowl (30%), gulls (22%), raptors (20%), and pigeons and doves (7%).[16] The Smithsonian Institution's Feather Identification Laboratory has identified turkey vultures as the most damaging birds, followed by Canada geese and white pelicans,[18] all of which are very large birds.

In terms of frequency, the laboratory most commonly finds mourning doves and horned larks involved in the strike.[18] The largest numbers of strikes happen during the spring and fall migrations.

Bird strikes above 500 feet (150 m) altitude are about 7 times more common at night than during the day during the bird migration season.[19] Large land animals, such as deer, can also be a problem to aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Between 1990 and 2013, civil aircraft experienced more than 1,000 collisions with deer and 440 with coyotes.[16] An animal hazard reported from London Stansted Airport in England is rabbits: they get run over by ground vehicles and planes, and they pass large amounts of droppings, which attract mice, which attract owls, which become another birdstrike hazard.[20] There are three approaches to reduce the effect of bird strikes.

Multiple strikes (from hitting a bird flock) on twin engine jet aircraft are very serious events because they can disable multiple aircraft systems, requiring emergency action to land the aircraft, as in the January 15, 2009 forced ditching of US Airways Flight 1549.

The risks of lasers to aircrews must be evaluated when determining whether or not to deploy lasers on airfields.[32] Southampton Airport utilises a laser device which disables the laser past a certain elevation, eliminating the risk of the beam being shone directly at aircraft and air traffic control tower (Southampton Airport 2014[33]).

When operating in the presence of bird flocks, pilots should seek to climb above 3,000 feet (910 m) as rapidly as possible as most birdstrikes occur below 3,000 feet (910 m).

The body density of the bird is also a parameter that influences the amount of damage caused.[41] The US Military Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS) uses near real time data from the 148 CONUS based National Weather Service Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD or WSR 88-D) system to provide current bird hazard conditions for published military low-level routes, ranges, and military operating areas (MOAs).

Additionally AHAS incorporates weather forecast data with the Bird Avoidance Model (BAM) to predict soaring bird activity within the next 24 hours and then defaults to the BAM for planning purposes when activity is scheduled outside the 24-hour window.

Properly designed and equipped avian radars can track thousands of birds simultaneously in real-time, night and day, through 360° of coverage, out to ranges of 10 km and beyond for flocks, updating every target's position (longitude, latitude, altitude), speed, heading, and size every 2–3 seconds.

The FAA used evaluations of commercial 3D avian radar systems developed and marketed by Accipiter Radar[43] as the basis for FAA Advisory Circular 150/5220-25[44] and a guidance letter[45] on using Airport Improvement Program funds to acquire avian radar systems at Part 139 airports.[46] Similarly, the DOD-sponsored Integration and Validation of Avian Radars (IVAR)[47] project evaluated the functional and performance characteristics of Accipiter® avian radars under operational conditions at Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force airfields.

The system has widely used technology available for bird–aircraft strike hazard (BASH) management and for real time detection, tracking and alerting of hazardous bird activity at commercial airports, military airfields and military training and bombing ranges.

After extensive evaluation and on-site testing, MERLIN technology was chosen by NASA and was ultimately used for detecting and tracking dangerous vulture activity during the 22 space shuttle launches from 2006 to the conclusion of the program in 2011.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates bird strikes cost US aviation 400 million dollars annually and have resulted in over 200 worldwide deaths since 1988.[53] In the United Kingdom, the Central Science Laboratory estimates[6] that worldwide, the cost of birdstrikes to airlines is around US$1.2 billion annually.

Chased flock of birds for two rounds and killed one which fell on top of the upper surface and after a time fell off when swinging a sharp curve.'[4] During the 1911 Paris to Madrid air race, French pilot Eugene Gilbert encountered an angry mother eagle over the Pyrenees.

Gilbert, flying an open-cockpit Bleriot XI, was able to ward off the large bird by firing pistol shots at it but did not kill it.[54][55] The first recorded bird strike fatality was reported in 1912 when aero-pioneer Cal Rodgers collided with a gull which became jammed in his aircraft control cables.

He crashed at Long Beach, California, was pinned under the wreckage, and drowned.[3][56] The greatest loss of life directly linked to a bird strike was on October 4, 1960, when a Lockheed L-188 Electra, flying from Boston as Eastern Air Lines Flight 375, flew through a flock of common starlings during take-off, damaging all four engines.

It crashed about two miles (3 km) from the runway, killing all 24 crew members on board.[59] On November 28, 2004, the nose landing gear of KLM Flight 1673, a Boeing 737-400, struck a bird during takeoff at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

The nose landing gear leg collapsed and the left main landing gear leg detached from its fittings shortly before the aircraft came to a stop perched over the edge of a drainage canal.

Contributing to the snapped cable was the improper application of grease during routine maintenance which led to severe wear of the cable.[60] In April 2007, a Thomsonfly Boeing 757 from Manchester Airport to Lanzarote Airport suffered a bird strike when at least one bird, supposedly a crow, was ingested by the starboard engine.

The incident was captured by two plane spotters on opposite sides of the airport, as well as the emergency calls picked up by a plane spotter's radio.[57] The Space Shuttle Discovery also hit a bird (a vulture) during the launch of STS-114 on July 26, 2005, although the collision occurred soon after lift-off and at low speed, with no obvious damage to the shuttle.[61] On November 10, 2008, Ryanair Flight 4102 from Frankfurt to Rome made an emergency landing at Ciampino Airport after multiple bird strikes caused both engines to fail.

All 150 passengers and 5 crew members were safely evacuated after a successful water landing.[65] On May 28, 2010, the NTSB published its final report into the accident.[66] Flying insect strikes, like bird strikes, have been encountered by pilots since aircraft were invented.

CASA warned that the insects could cause loss of engine power and loss of visibility, and blocking of an aircraft's pitot tubes, causing inaccurate airspeed readings.[68][69] Bug strikes can also affect the operation of machinery on the ground, especially motorcycles.

The team on the US TV show MythBusters – in a 2010 episode entitled 'Bug Special' – concluded that death could occur if a motorist were hit by a flying insect of sufficient mass in a vulnerable part of the body.

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