Cockpit windshield tests showed the inner panes survived collisions. Image: CAAC-TV

China: CAAC conducts aircraft-drone collision windshield tests

Equipment & systems Policy • regulations • airspace

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has conducted crash tests of a c-drone with airliner cockpit windshields, according to a report by CCA News and a film posted online by CAAC.

A research team led by CAAC, with the participation of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute, Dà-Jiāng Innovations (DJI), the world’s leading c-drone manufacturer, airworthiness certification experts, and others, conducted the tests on November 30 at the Aviation Industry Corporation of China Aerospace Life-support Industries (AVIC-ALI) test facility near Xiangyang, Hubei Province. DJI Phantom model c-drones were hung from a frame with rotors turning, then impacted on each front window panel of a Chinese-manufactured commercial airliner nose jet-propulsed along a 6 km rocket sled test track at high speed.

In both runs the outer panes cracked, but the inner panes held in the cockpit section, yielding results comparable to bird-strike certification tests. FAA and EASA regulations for large aircraft specify a cockpit windshield must withstand an 4 lb. (1.8 kg.) bird impact, without splintering the inner pane; there are no regulations at this time for c-drone windscreen impact. Phantom model c-drones weigh approximately 3 to 4 lb. (1.3 to 1.8 kg).

However, although birds and quadcopter c-drones may seem comparable in size and weight, the jagged edges, metal parts, and batteries of c-drones pose a greater risk to aircraft windshields if a collision occurs, according to a July UK government study. Engine ingestion of a c-drone would also be a high-risk event requiring study.