Being a drone enthusiast, it’s important for you to know about the dangers and risks that come with flying one. Drones are not a plaything, and if you’re not careful enough — a fun shoot day can turn into a nightmare in no time!
Drone propellers can hurt you. That’s because propellers are sharp enough to easily cut through your skin. The damage extent depends on the size of the propeller, how fast it was spinning and how far the person was at the time of impact. Your face and neck are the most vulnerable to drone injuries.
But let me tell you, there’s nothing to worry about as long as you know what you’re doing. To help you figure out the fundamentals, I’ve put together this post to decipher all the puzzling aspects of flying a drone.
Sit tight because I’m about to walk you through everything you need to know about drone injuries and more!
It’s important to know the material that your drone propeller is made of. It directly relates to many characteristics of your drone, including its performance, flight stability, and even safety hazards.
Drone propellers are typically made of plastic or carbon fiber. While plastic propellers tend to vibrate more as they spin, they are also cheap, flexible, and last longer. Meanwhile, carbon propellers are strong, stiff and produce a lot less vibration. Seasoned pilots prefer them over plastic ones.
If you are a beginner with little to no experience of flying a drone, I suggest you stick to the propellers made from plastic. They’ll cost you a lot less in the long run as they have the potential to bend and are still functional after a few crashes.
At the same time, their flexibility makes them a safer option as well. Even if you do come into contact with plastic propellers, your injury wouldn’t be remotely serious.
On the other hand, while carbon propellers perform better, their sturdy nature makes them a riskier option. Upon collision, the injuries caused by them are maximum.
Trust me, if you are a newbie, you have no business replacing your plastic propellers with the carbon ones!
If you have seen an active drone propeller, you must have an idea how fast the blades can go. To give you a more accurate understanding, let’s talk about some numbers.
A drone propeller spins as fast as 8000 revolutions per minute on average. In other words, it rotates 133 times per second. As a drone takes off, it gradually gains momentum and increases its speed. The drone propellers typically have a speed of 70-150 mph, depending on the size of the drone.
The drone propellers determine the speed and stability once a drone is mid-air. The speed of the drone is further determined by factors such as the motor capacity of the drone and the size of the propellers diameter.
It goes without saying that once engaged, a propeller that’s revolving as fast as 133 times per second is capable enough of hurting you.
I have been alluding to this in almost every section of the post so far. Let’s take a closer look at drone-related injuries.
Indeed, drones can cause injuries. These are not only limited to the pilot but can also affect any other person who is in the airspace. Recklessly manhandling a drone while it is running or flying causes most injuries. Crashes resulting from technical complications can also end up hurting people.
If I talk about the damages, severe lacerations especially in the hands, face and neck are pretty common. Hurting your eyes is also one of the drastic damages that a drone is capable of inflicting.
In other cases, when a person falls due to a drone collision, they can fracture any part of their body including head, neck and spine.
I cannot stress enough how a drone pilot must follow FAA guidelines before allowing their drone to fly mid-air. Allow me to walk you through the situations that ultimately cause drone injuries.
Previously, drones were piloted by professionals for official purposes only. However, in recent years, as the recreational aspect of drones became popular, it is now easily accessible for any common man.
Here’s something to understand: a drone is a flying robot and if you don’t know what you’re doing — things can get messy really fast. So before you grab hold of the remote controller, you must have the required training for using one. I’ve noticed most newbies make the mistake of buying a large drone rather than starting with smaller drone models.
This explains why most drone injuries are caused by direct impact of the drone. An example of such injuries includes the case of an adult man who was hit in the face by drone propellers and sustained extensive ocular injuries. In another case, a 13-year old boy had a skull fracture due to direct impact of a drone.
You see, however tempting it might be to invest in a fancy drone as a beginner, it will not end well. Flying a drone comes with understanding the technicalities and that is only achieved by practice. One wrong turn is all it takes for a drone to collide with any object in its way and result in a crash that can injure you or anyone else in the airspace.
Once you have the technical knowledge, the next important thing is having situational awareness. If you’re confused, well, let me explain.
Flying a drone isn’t just about knowing how to have a smooth take off, maintain great stability mid-air, and conclude your flight with a successful landing.
While these are essential too, you must understand that not planning the flight according to the situation you're flying in is just as dangerous for you as it is for anyone else in that area.
To plan your flight, you must know if the weather is suitable for flying. Whether the drone you’re operating is fit to serve the purpose or if it's carrying the correct payload onboard. Similarly, the health of your battery is an important factor as well. Many pilots are pushing their battery even when it clearly needs a replacement. All of this contributes to improper flight planning.
An example of such negligence is when a 29-year old male was killed from a drone accident. He was trying to revive a drone that was caught up in the wires and was electrocuted during the rescue. The shock was too severe and the young man lost his life.
To put it bluntly, by not being careful about these things, your drone is nothing but a threat capable of injuring people in a blink of an eye.
While I researched about how drones can cause injuries, I also discovered that it’s not just the direct impact that results in accidents. Some occur simply because the pilot wasn’t responsible enough to stick to the rules.
For example, a drone narrowly missed a collision with an Airbus A320 mid-air. According to regulations, a drone pilot should not fly their drone anywhere near an airport to avoid such collisions with the flying airplane — something they clearly didn’t pay attention to,
Another example of injuries sustained without any direct impact is when a three-year old child was exposed to the smoke resulting from a battery explosion in a drone. It goes without saying that a battery should not be left in a drone especially when you don’t intend to use it anytime soon. Otherwise, it might expand and even explode, and that’s exactly what happened here.
Flying a drone is fun but, at the same time, even the tiniest recklessness should be avoided. If not, you’re just welcoming accidents instead of making the most out of your flying experience!
With the rise in popularity of drones, it's becoming really common to see drone-related accidents being reported. Given below are some statistics to support my point.
Drone accidents are so common nowadays that from 2015 to 2020, there were approximately 4,250 drone injuries in the US. 21% of these were minors and more than half were males. While 95% of these patients were treated and released, there are still instances where drone accidents proved to be fatal.
If we talk about the common injuries statistically, the most prominent ones were 72% lacerations, followed by 10% contusion/abrasion, 5% strain/sprain, and 5% internal injury. The most injured body parts were upper extremities (56% fingers, 24% head, 14% lower extremities, and 6% trunk).
An interesting thing to note about these accidents is that a great majority of the drones were flown by recreational hobbyists. This brings me back to the point that I discussed in the last section how lack of experience and training is an essential factor behind these drone accidents.
Because like I said, it’s impossible to fly a drone successfully unless you are fully aware of what you're dealing with.
Of course, my discussion is incomplete without talking about my favorite drone manufacturers of the modern day.
A DJI drone is capable of cutting you. However, the severity of lacerations depend on the model in use. Some models, which are typically bigger in size have stronger propellers ultimately lead to maximum damage. While smaller DJI drones can also cut you the most damage remains sustained.
Let’s say you’re flying a Matrice 600 Pro or Phantom 4. These are one of the largest models of DJI in terms of size. This means all the features are at their maximum — be it motor power, propellor diameter, frame size, and whatnot! In this case, the severity of injuries will also be maximum whether the impact is direct or indirect.
On the other hand, if you are flying Mavic Mini or Mini 2, their smaller size will be an advantage here. That’s because the impact will be minimal, resulting in very little damage in case of an accident.
It’s essentially why I recommend all newbies to start with Mavic Mini, or related DJI models to practice their piloting without worrying much about any potential mishaps!
Just because drone propeller injuries are highly possible, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be prevented at all.
The best way to prevent drone propeller injuries is by using propeller guards. If your drone doesn’t have them, it’s best to invest in them. Also, never start with carbon blades when the plastic ones are a much safer option. Most importantly, don’t fly a drone unless you have the basic training.
That said, flying a drone is all about taking responsibility for what you’re walking into. Going through the user manuals, knowing all the piloting regulations, practicing simulations before actually flying - these are some of the fundamentals that you must not avoid.
Unless and until you have the basic skills and confidence of flying a drone, don’t go anywhere near the thought of piloting one!
If I haven’t been clear enough, let me say it one more time: keep your hands off the moving propellers. Otherwise, getting a cut — regardless of how superficial or deep it is — is inevitable.
A drone blade can cut through a soft tissue as long as it remains functional. This means that you shouldn’t try to chase a drone when it’s mid air, or recklessly keep the blades engaged on low heights. The higher the speed and strength of the drone blade, the deeper the cut will be.
That said, being careful is the only right approach when it comes to handling drones!