What would happen if a drone was sucked into a jet engine?

What would happen if a drone was sucked into a jet engine?

With drones being such a widespread piece of aviation technology, they prove to be beneficial to many industries. Despite their potential, drones pose a serious threat to manned aircraft flying throughout the sky because of their small size. This raises the question; what would happen if a drone was sucked into a jet engine?


Drone flight is prohibited within a 5-mile radius of all airports unless the tower is notified prior by the UAV pilot. I like to use AirMap, a really well put together app to check no-fly-zones before I fly that actually provides contact information for all airports, that is a really handy feature.

This restriction is put in place so that drones flying under 400 feet will not collide with larger aircraft as they descend lower to the ground to land. Notifying the tower before flying gives them the appropriate information as to all flight being conducted in the area even by drones. They can then make changes as necessary to keep manned aircraft in the sky safe.

A proper example of what not to do, is shown in this earlier post that showing a pilot flying his drone dangerously close to an Airbus A380, of the Emirates fleet.

Jet engine simulation

To test all parts of an aircraft against bird strikes, extensive testing is done with something called a “chicken gun.” This is a compressed air cannon that fires dead chicken bodies at planes to simulate how they would stand up to a bird strike during flight.

Jet engines are a part of this list as they are tested the same way to ensure no malfunctions occur in the event a bird is sucked into the spinning fans. Take a look at this video from 13 Action News, Las Vegas, in which they interviewed Javid Bayandor, an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences:

As seen through the computer simulation, extensive damage is done to the engine within seconds of a drone entering the engine. These incidents aren’t only at risk of happening near airports, but at higher altitudes as well when the manned aircraft is moving at high speeds. This comes from drone pilots not having a clear visual on their drone when flying above 400 feet.

Although simulations using chickens shows how birds can damage engines, it turns out drones are a bigger threat because of their weight.

The damage that could be done to a jet engine entirely depends on the situation. Differently sized drones and different speeds could all change how the integrity of the engine is affected, but a closer look at the simulation below shows that in the event of any kind of crash, things won’t be pretty.

The bottom line is that drone pilots need to take more care when flying. Those who choose to disobey guidelines and fly recklessly are hurting the reputation of UAV’s and ultimately themselves. Don’t let your name be in the first headline of a drone grounding a commercial airliner.

What do you think about these simulations shown? Let us know in the comments below.


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Photo credit: voestalpine

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