Drones as a new risk from the air: they all come down



When drones become cargo ships, the danger rises in urban traffic. This is demonstrated by a simulated impact of a baggage dredging on a car.

Herbie Schmidt

Whether it is cabriolet or not: the impact of a 9 kg drone through the side window can be fatally reduced for the occupants. (Photo: PD)

Whether it is cabriolet or not: the impact of a 9 kg drone through the side window can be fatally reduced for the occupants. (Photo: PD)

Every year, insurance company Axa comes up with new situations for typical crash tests, always looking for existing and especially future risks in road traffic.

This year Dübendorf was also in the air under the motto "Urban Mobility 2030". In accordance with the situation, the military airport, from where the Ju-Air plane picked up at the beginning of August and did not return, the crashexperts simulated a 9 kg crash Luggage drone on the side of a convertible. "When a drone hits an obstacle in an uncontrolled descent, the kinetic energy is enormous," explains Bettina Zahnd, Head of Accident Investigation and Prevention at Axa.

The construction of the drone, in the simulation of metal with sharp unprotected knives as rotors, was the least realistic element in the crash test. But with a weight of 9 kilograms it does not help with the collision and no side window as protection against rams. As the inspection revealed, the crash test dummy was permanently damaged on the head. According to Zahnd, such an accident would lead to serious or even fatal injuries to vehicle occupants.

What makes the crash test and the findings particularly serious is the fact that, in terms of drone regulation, Switzerland lags behind its neighboring countries. "Today in Switzerland, anyone who wants to drive a drone without marking the device and without any training".

The Axa crash investigators around Bettina Zahnd demand that all pilots of a drone weighing more than 500 g complete a mandatory theory test, and for drones above 900 g, a practical further training. (Photo: PD)

The Axa crash investigators around Bettina Zahnd demand that all pilots of a drone weighing more than 500 g complete a mandatory theory test, and for drones above 900 g, a practical further training. (Photo: PD)

The insurance has an established interest in stronger regulations, as Zahnd explains: "In principle, the drone pilot is liable for damage to third parties and his insurance covers the costs." For drones up to 500 grams no liability insurance is required, the private liability takes over the damage – if the owner of the drone can find himself at all. Because the cause of such accidents after the collision can not often be traced, because there is no registration and labeling of the drone.

It looks a bit different with heavier drones up to 30 kilograms. Here a Bazl approval is required, but no training is required here. After all, the Axa can sell a separate liability insurance here, without the possible damage in the drone crash being covered.

Most of the holder of drones after the impact can no longer be located, because the labeling and registration are missing. (Photo: PD)

Most of the holder of drones after the impact can no longer be located, because the labeling and registration are missing. (Photo: PD)

Germany is much further in this area. Since October 2017 there is mandatory labeling for drones starting from 250 grams, with address details of the owner. From two kilos, the drone pilot must show special flying skills, from 5 kg a permit from the aviation authority is required. In contrast to Switzerland, residential plots, nature reserves, collections of people and industrial installations in Germany are subject to a general flight ban.

Not only for road traffic, also in view of the upcoming ski winter, a settlement in Switzerland is difficult, because the possibility of colliding with a drone on the slopes is reasonably given. Just think about the almost accident of Marcel Hirscher in the World Cup. That was almost three years ago.


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