We Don't Know What Happens If a Jet Engine Sucks in a Drone

Pilot drone sightings have already more than doubled last year's total
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2015 1:00 PM CDT
We Don't Know What Happens If a Jet Engine Sucks in a Drone
This March 12, 2014 file photo shows a drone.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

In July, the Department of Homeland Security said it counted more than 500 incidents of drones passing near "critical" sites such as airports since 2012. And the Federal Aviation Administration said the number of pilot sightings of unmanned aircraft as of Aug. 9 is more than double the number filed all of last year—238 compared to more than 650, reports the AP. And yet no tests have been performed to see just what would happen if an unmanned aircraft, including a tiny drone, was sucked into a jet engine, reports NBC News. CFM, GE, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney, which together build 80% of the world's commercial aircraft engines, all said they have yet to perform any such tests because the FAA does not yet require them.

Testing the impact of birds on a jet engine has long been required by the federal government, and there have still been casualties resulting from these collisions—the deadliest being in 1960 when an Eastern Airlines turboprop crash landed, killing 62 people. When it comes to drones, the lithium-ion batteries and plastic parts might be able to damage an engine's rotating components, and the FAA warned last week that "operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal," and those who do so "may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time." It tells NBC that it does plan to develop such engine testing in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. (More drones stories.)

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