Research catapult tests the dangers of drones

April 13, 2016, Aalborg University
Drone collision with pork roast

At Aalborg University's Drone Research Lab, a new experimental setup with a motorized catapult and high-speed camera now documents in detail what happens when one of the popular small hobby drones hit objects or people. In the first film from the lab, drones are sent on a collision course with a pork roast.

"The objective is to examine the consequences when different kinds of drones hit people, animals, cars, glass panes and other obstacles they may encounter in their path. With a high-speed and precise measurements of both the speed and the force of the collision, it is possible to assess the damage that may occur," says Anders la Cour-Harbo, director of the drone lab.

The catapult was built by the university specifically for this type of experiment and it is still in the testing phase. The videos show the very first experiments for adjusting the mechanics and electronics of the catapult. In addition, researchers are still working on optimizing the light and camera setup, so registration will be as good as possible.

"The first attempts are interesting because they clearly show what could happen when a regular hobby drone hits a human being. But it's too early to conclude anything," says Anders la Cour-Harbo. Particularly in the tests simulating collisions with people, it is necessary to do it absolutely right and verify that the results are reliable. The university is thus working with Aalborg University Hospital to conduct experiments that can help us better understand how dangerous drones really are.

The actual catapult is nearly three meters long and built of aluminum. The slide is pulled by an electric motor. It can accelerate a 1-kilogram drone up to 15 meters per second and the collision is filmed with a with over 3000 frames per second. The force of impact is measured over time as this is important for the extent of the injury. Once the researchers get more experienced, the plan is to upgrade the catapult for larger and higher speeds.

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not rated yet Apr 13, 2016
""The first attempts are interesting because they clearly show what could happen when a regular hobby drone hits a human being. But it's too early to conclude anything," says Anders la Cour-Harbo."

Not necessarily so.
Anyone, with any sense, knows when you are struck by the spinning propeller, of even a micro drone, it's going to hurt. As the size, weight and speed of the drone and it's propellers increases, the potential for serious injury increases exponentially.
The problem here is, they are trying to quantify too many variables.
As I said, there is the size, weight and speed of the whole drone, the size weight, RPM and torque of the propeller, the material of the propeller, the thickness of the propeller and the sharpness of the edge of the propeller.
Too many variables.
In the end it becomes a useless endeavor.
not rated yet Apr 13, 2016
I am surprised it is not compulsory for safety guards to be put around the spinning propellers of a drone vehicle.

Drones are designed to hover in close proximity to people, and any tort lawyer will tell you that proximity plus damage equals negligence.

A rapidly spinning blade could easily cause severe injury or death.

A cut to a neck vein or laceration to the face or eyes is within reasonable contemplation of its operation.

Also, I have seen daddy flying his toy drone in the park with his baby in a pram nearby.

So what happens if the drone develops a glitch and goes awry.

Could you prove it wasn't an operator fault, or low batteries or radio interference.

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