You might have seen a recent video in which the University of Dayton Research Institute fired a DJI drone at an aircraft wing, causing serious structural damage. DJI called the video a “scenario inconceivable in real life” and has sent a letter to the university demanding its withdrawal.
The letter, sent via email to the lead researcher on the project, Kevin Poormon, asserts that DJI takes safety very seriously and takes issue with several aspects of the video, including:

  • The speed of the impact in the video assumes that the Mooney M20 used in the project was flying at maximum cruising speed and the drone was flying beyond its maximum speed. The plane would only be flying that fast at altitudes well above a drone’s regulated maximum altitude. DJI asserts that the actual impact energy would be much lower due to the slower speed the plane would be flying at were it to encounter a drone at a normal altitude where they’re found.
  • The researchers used the damage caused to a four-seater plane as evidence of that which would be caused to a commercial jet.
  • The researchers did not follow rigorous scientific testing protocol.
  • The test was designed to maximize damage instead of following FAA’s protocol, which dictate testing the most likely scenario.

Altogether, DJI asserts that the test created an unrealistic scenario designed to “generate paid research work for UDRI at the expense of the reputation of drone technology broadly, and DJI’s products specifically.” The company has demanded that the research be withdrawn and a statement of correction be issued. As of now, the video is still live.