It's a conflict for the modern age. An intrepid drone goes up against an artificial lightning strike. Will it live to fly another day?
There's a magical place at the University of Manchester in the UK. It's called the High Voltage Laboratory and it's home to a massive impulse generator that can essentially emit up to a 2-million-volt lightning strike on demand. YouTube entertainer Tom Scott visited the lab to see what happens when a DJI Phantom 3 drone gets smacked by a massive electrical impulse.
Scott and the lab team flew the drone on a tether, charged up the machine and blasted the drone with the strike. It makes a loud bang and the drone drops out of the air. The slowed-down footage is a spectacle to behold.
"Surprisingly there were no visible marks on the outside of the drone, but that doesn't mean that the insides got away unscathed; as it turns out, the electricity took the path of least resistance and fried all the sensitive internal electronics," notes a blog post Monday from the High Voltage Lab.
The lab tried a second test with a backup drone equipped with copper tape, which was meant to act like a lightning rod. Spoiler alert: The impulse generator fried that drone, too.
The drones' failure to survive the experiment should act as a warning to drone operators: It's probably not a great idea to fly your expensive gear in a lightning storm. In a battle between a drone and a lightning strike, the lightning will win.
Drone flight in bad weather conditions
As it is known, the group of meteorological adverse phenomena for flight more relevant present variations according to technical and operational characteristics.
Although there are drones that weigh more than 1 tonne and can fly above 60,000 feet, most operations involve small aircraft flying close to the ground and thus are more vulnerable to adverse weather conditions that occur at low altitudes.
Before commencing a flight, in addition to knowing the operating manual of the equipment, the remote pilot must be aware of all the information necessary for the flight planning.
One of the necessary information for the flight is the careful evaluation of the weather conditions.
Weather conditions are ideal for safe drone operation. Sunny days with calm or weak wind offer less risk to the safety of the operations of this type of equipment.
However, it may be necessary to operate a RPAS in weather conditions that do not always fit the ideal operating profile. In this situation, care must be taken not to compromise the safety of the operation and to avoid damaging the equipment and, in particular, the risk of collision with objects, persons and aircraft.
To avoid RPA flight in adverse weather conditions, it is recommended that the remote pilot is aware of pre-flight weather information and knows the risks that certain phenomena may offer for this type of operation. Such care will help increase your situational awareness.
In addition, the remote pilot must know the operational limits of the equipment as regards the weather conditions. Wind speed above 20 kt, snow, rain and fog are adverse weather conditions for the operation of some models, such as Phantom 4 and Mavic .
The rains are formed by drops of water with a diameter of more than 0.5 mm visibly separated that fall from the clouds. They are usually caused by the encounter between two air masses (a mass of cold air and a mass of warm air), due to a front or an elevation of a cloud by ascending currents.
Flying during rainfall can cause equipment to be destroyed because most drones are not waterproof or waterproof. Rainwater, even in light rainfall conditions, can come in contact with hot batteries and motors and cause breakdowns in electronic systems.
In addition, this weather condition may cause greater difficulty for operation of drones that use cameras for stability and navigation, as rain can reduce the contrast required for the camera to discern movement.
Rainwater action can degrade control and control link performance and can result in a significant reduction in radio range. In addition, excess moisture can cause temporary equipment failure.
Another danger that can be encountered during the operation of a RPAS under rainfall condition is the difficulty of viewing the drone either by a remote observer / pilot - something critical in VLOS operations - or by another aircraft. Rainwater can also greatly reduce the view of the front camera - on aircraft equipped with this equipment.
One way to avoid the risk of rains for drone flight is to check available weather information before starting the operation and review the latest weather reports and weather forecasts. Such planning requires adequate anticipation of the take-off time of the equipment.
Wind gusts and wind shear
The winds become strong whenever there is a large pressure difference between two points. In this situation, the air will move from the point of greatest pressure to the point of least pressure in the horizontal direction.
In regions where stronger winds are frequent, drone flight can become potentially dangerous, because under wind and wind shear conditions, correcting RPA piloting may not be sufficient to ensure safe operation.
Each RPA has a strong wind tolerance, which is reported by the manufacturer. Flying outside the tolerance limits can cause navigation problems as the equipment may not have the strength to overcome wind resistance or can acquire extreme speeds very quickly.
Above this speed, the resistance level of the equipment to the effects of the wind will vary according to the size of the propellers, motor spin and equipment weight. A drone like Phantom 3 should not fly with winds above 36 km / h. Have a higher drone as a 6SGEO of Mikrokopter can fly in windy conditions up to 49 km / h.
It is possible to use speed measurement sensors that can be installed on fixed-wing drones. In the case of multidrive drones, the installation of these sensors becomes a little more difficult, since the sensor must be fixed in a place that is not influenced by the wind of the drone propellers themselves.
This is the case, for example, when the remote pilot decides to fly at a height higher than allowed by the equipment manual. In this situation, the RPA may face difficulties to overcome wind resistance. It is important to note that at higher levels, the wind speed can vary more rapidly due to the decrease in atmospheric pressure, which requires greater care with the parameter wind speed during the operation.
Another potentially dangerous situation is operation under the effect of lateral wind - when the wind is in the direction towards the side of the RPA.
If the side wind is at high speed, the remote pilot may be surprised. In this situation, the equipment can exit its line of sight and lose the signal of the radio, entering FailSafe mode. If the height set for the return is not sufficient, the equipment may collide with vegetation or with obstacles in the ground.
Another care the remote pilot needs to have in relation to the wind is to know his direction before starting the operation of the RPA so that the planning of the operation is compatible with the battery life of the equipment.
If the operation is started in favor of the direction of the wind and the flight of the return stretch to the base is carried out against the direction of the wind, there will certainly be greater use of the battery in the return section. This detail must be taken into account when planning the operation.
It is also essential that the remote pilot knows all the limits of autonomy of his equipment to avoid descents with very high speed, which can potentiate the wind gradient and cause risk of collision with ground, obstacles and people.
Danger of wind in areas with obstacles
If the operation is carried out near areas that have large buildings, artificial shelters or natural obstructions, such as large trees, it is necessary to have extra attention. Obstacles in the soil affect the flow of wind. For this reason, it is recommended, before starting the operation in these places, to know the different wind patterns of the locality.