Researchers at Virginia Tech — home to both a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aircraft systems and a world-renowned injury biomechanics group — are developing methods to evaluate the risk posed by small unmanned aircraft to anyone on the ground.
This research is key to enabling flights over people. Federal Aviation Administration regulations for unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, currently prohibit these flights unless a special waiver is granted.
The regulations are designed to prevent injuries if an aircraft descends unexpectedly or the pilot loses control. But they present challenges for efficiently conducting operations that otherwise seem ideally suited for unmanned aircraft, such as package delivery and aerial journalism. And most applications face steep hurdles in densely populated areas, where it would be virtually impossible to ensure that there was no one beneath an aircraft’s flight path.