600 drones sent crashing to make them safer

On the grounds of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) lies a site of brutal violence – a graveyard of drones where almost 600 of them met their grisly end by crashing into a crash-test dummy head.

These damaged drones are part of a large-scale study done for the first time here to test the impact of drones of various weights landing on someone’s head from different heights.

With this study, government agencies can have scientific data to work with when coming up with future regulations to manage safe drone operations in urban Singapore.

Researcher Andy Koh, a programme manager at NTU’s Air Traffic Management Research Institute who was part of the experimentation team, said the data would also aid in research work that the institute is doing in developing an air traffic system for drones.

The research on air traffic management started in December last year in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

The crash-test findings will be presented to a global audience at the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in Florida next month.

The 10-person research team, led by Professor Low Kin Huat from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, performed hundreds of experiments, using drones weighing 1kg to 9kg and from drop heights of around 3m to 15m.

The team found that if they flew a drone at 61m – the limit for which a user does not require a permit – even a small, 250g drone could kill someone on direct impact.
Under current regulations, drone operators here do not have to apply for a permit when flying drones weighing less than 7kg and below a height of 61m above mean sea level.

“Right now, there is no scientific background for that choice of 7kg,” said Prof Low.

The team found that if they flew a drone at 61m – the limit for which a user does not require a permit – even a small, 250g drone could kill someone on direct impact.

Mr Koh, who did the tests from last August to January this year, said: “But you can’t do much with a drone that weighs only that much – no deliveries, nothing.”

So the team expanded the study.

It modelled areas where heavier drones can fly – for example, in densely populated neighbourhoods such as Choa Chu Kang.

The team wanted to find out how to minimise the odds of a drone falling on someone and how to lower the chances that this would be fatal.

It came to several conclusions.

Even in population-dense areas, the risk of fatality can be reduced by flying drones over covered walkways, or by plotting a path which takes them over the tops of buildings rather than open areas.

This research comes amid steadily growing demand for commercial drone use in Singapore.

According to the CAAS, 1,137 activity permits were filed from April last year to April this year, up from the 781 permits filed in the same period between 2015 and 2016.

The number of operator permits has also increased, with 215 filed from April last year to April this year, up from 117 over the same period between 2015 and 2016.

From- http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/600-drones-sent-crashing-to-make-them-safer