The panic, here, is completely out of any sort of proportion to reality.

 

I was asked if there has been any study about serious injuries or deaths from small UAS, also known as Drones. I looked, and couldn’t find anything in the US. (In November, 2015 an 18-month-old child in Worcestershire, UK lost one of his eyes when a drone operator lost control of his remote-controlled drone.)  I looked deeper by inquiring with aviation lawyers and insurance companies and still couldn’t find anything. What I did find is that there have been no serious accidents or deaths in the US from small personal drones. None.

I did, however, find these statistics.

Today (if this is an average day in the US):
1560 people will die from Cancer
268 people in US hospitals will die because of medical mistakes.
162 people will be wounded by firearms in the US.
117 Americans will die in an automobile accident.
98 people in the US will die from the flu.
53 people will kill themselves with a firearm.
46 children will suffer eye injuries.
37 will die from AIDS.
30 people will die in gun-related murders.
18 pilots will report a Laser Incident
3 General Aviation airplanes will crash in the US.
0 people will be seriously injured or killed by a small drone accident. [1]

Zero. Why are so many people so terrified of zero? Zero is a safety record that any other segment of aviation would be jealous to have.

Small UAVs do not pose any significant risk to anyone. “Dangerous” and “invasion of privacy” concerns are ridiculous, driven by paranoia borne of ignorance and propagated by irresponsible reporting.

There is absolutely no factual evidence to support the fear and ignorance around small personal drones. There have been more than a million hours of flight of small drones, yet there is not one verifiable report of a drone crash in the US that resulted in a serious injury as defined by the NTSB [1] . (A Band-Aid is not a serious injury- See CFR 49 §830.2).

Yes, people have been injured by personal drones. Mostly the operators are receiving lacerations from trying to hand-catch a drone rather than land. Enrique Iglesias’ well-publicized on-stage performance last year is an example of such an injury. Catching the drone was part of his stage act making him a participant in the flight. There have been fatalities from model aircraft, but again, mostly the aircraft operator and not someone not involved in the flight. And none of the fatalities involved personal drones. All but one was a gas-powered model helicopter with three-foot long aluminum propeller blades.

The word “Drone” invokes a visceral sphincter tightening in people who enjoy more authority than they actually have and invokes the natural human tendency to regulate every fear out of existence.

So, where’s the blood and mayhem to justify the perception that small personal drones are a threat to public safety?

 

[1] CFR 49 §830.2 contains the definition of “Serious Injury” that the FAA and NTSB use in their aircraft and vehicular accident statistics. It is important to hold small UAS accidents to the same metric, otherwise comparisons are meaningless.

 

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