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How Dangerous Are Drones?


Should we be preparing for the attack of the drones? As the small aircrafts are becoming more commonplace, reports of injuries caused by them are popping up. A reporter covering a promotional event involving drones got an up close look when one crashed into his face. Drones being used to film a bull run in Virginia turned out to be more dangerous than the massive animals, injuring at least five.

Most recently singer Enrique Iglesias suffered injuries to his hand when he grabbed a drone being used to film parts of his concert. Is duck and cover the best option when drones are present? "I personally have not seen any injuries from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)," says Scott Youngquist, MD, an emergency medicine physician with University of Utah Health. "That's probably because most of the injuries caused by them are minor and not cause for medical attention."

When it comes to the likelihood that a person could be seriously injured in a drone collision several factors need to be taken into consideration: the weight of the drone, the part of the drone hitting the person, and the part of the body being hit.

"Being hit in the eye is, obviously, going to cause a more serious injury than being hit in the shoulder," says Youngquist. "Also, the spinning blades will likely cause more damage than being bumped by the side of the craft." What about when a drone crashes? "When it comes to crashes, it all a matter of velocity," says Youngquist. "The higher the UAV was flying, the harder it will hit, and the more severe the injury."

The benefits and pitfalls of drones are still being discovered, and the work of regulating them is far from done. It is becoming clearer though that, other than a few minor cuts and bruises, they are, so far, not a serious safety risk. Of course, that could change as the technology evolves. "It's all about evaluating the risks as they present themselves," says Youngquist.