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When You Give a Dummy a Drone

January 6, 2017

We all know that drones can do some really wonderful stuff — they’re technological marvels that have revitalized aviation for a new generation. But it’s hard to not feel a twinge of fear in your stomach when a drone is flying just a little too close for comfort.

I think it’s probably a universal response — you see those whirring propellers, and all you can imagine is the horror that would unfold as they embedded themselves in your tender flesh.

And this is why researchers at Virginia Tech are intentionally flying drones into the face of a sensor-laden human dummy. Not a human face. That wouldn’t be very responsible research.

Virginia Tech is home to one of the FAA-approved UAS test sites and also hosted Project Wing’s burrito-by-drone tests.

The university’s renowned Center for Injury Biomechanics is flying drones in the face of safety in order to determine and evaluate the precise risk that small UAS pose to unprotected individuals on the ground. This information will help regulatory bodies like the FAA establish guidelines that maintain safety while advancing the application of drones.

Sorry for the boring stuff. Here’s a video of the tests, which includes a DJI Phantom flying full-force into that poor dummy’s face.

Many voices within the drone industry are crying out for more lenient drone regulation, insisting that flights over people or beyond the pilot’s visual line-of-sight can be performed safely. Hopefully, these tests will help provide data to back up those claims.

“The risk of injury is very low, particularly with small aircraft,” said Mark Blanks, director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, in an article on the Virginia Tech website. “This research can mitigate those risks further. And we have the world’s best team doing it.”

In addition to flying drones into various parts of the human anatomy, the team will be conducting drop tests to determine the potential damage caused to humans by falling drones. Which, considering the fact that major companies put out drones that lose battery power in the middle of flights, is a thing that happens.

Through these tests, Virginia Tech is helping move drones into the future ― very important, serious work. But there’s also something oddly pleasurable and cathartic about watching a drone boldly fly straight into the face of a humanoid test dummy. I’m just glad it isn’t me.

Because you probably can’t enough of the dummy taking a drone to the face, here it is again. You’re welcome.


Featured image: Pixabay/PIRO4D

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