Drone Collision Task Force to the Rescue

Drones, drones, drones … Everyone is droning on about drones as they become ever more ubiquitous. But as drones become more commonplace, there have been growing concerns — especially with respect to safety in the sky.

So, along comes the European Aviation Safety Agency, just proclaiming that it intends to establish a task force specifically dedicated to studying the risks posed by drones, especially as relates to potential drone collisions with aircraft. 

This announcement, originally disclosed by AP and also reported on by Mashable.com, states that the task force will examine various potential weaknesses of aircraft in the event of collisions with drones — such as windshields, engines and outer aircraft frames.

If this examination reveals potential vulnerabilities, the European Aviation Safety Agency then may conduct actual collision tests between drones and airplanes. Apparently, this would involve propelling drones at stationary aircraft at specified speeds. The tests likely would not include flying planes and drones into each other in the sky.

These developments have unfolded based on reported incidents of drones and planes colliding into each other in the wild.

As drones have grown in sheer number in the sky, there has been an increasing trend toward regulation. Indeed, drones of certain sizes flying over the US reportedly must be registered with the U.S. government, and in 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration limited the use of drones near airports.

If the examination and possible test results of the European Aviation Safety Agency determine that the collision of drones into aircraft indeed could damage aircraft and might threaten the safety of flight crews and passengers, we likely would see much greater regulation of drones in Europe and elsewhere.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.