There’s been a lot of hubbub over the danger commercial drones pose to aircrafts, with safety being one of the driving reasons behind the recent decision that drone owners register their flying UAVs with the federal government. The FAA has gone out of its way to block the presence of drones in no fly zones, but it turns out, this problem isn’t as pressing as has been publicized. In fact, no aircraft in the U.S. has ever struck a drone, despite quite a few close calls. The same cannot be said about turtles.
Using the FAA’s public records on the Wildlife Strike Database, Eli Dourado, a researcher with the Mercatus Center, decided to compare the number of airplane collisions with drones in the air to the number of turtles hit by planes on the ground. His research found that not a single plane has struck a drone in flight, but that between January 1, 1990 and July 31, 2015, 198 turtles have been victims of airplane strikes. More than half of these casualties have occurred since 2010. Where’s the ASPCA commercial with the Sarah McLachlan ballad for these poor little reptilians?
This isn’t a flawless comparison to get the point across that perhaps drones don’t pose as much of a threat to aircrafts as has been reported. After all, commercial drones have only recently taken off in the past year or so. Meanwhile, turtles have been potential targets for airplanes since the successful landing of the first airplane. Besides, a turtle being crushed by the wheel of a plane is much less catastrophic than an airplane striking a drone mid-flight (though I’m sure the turtle would disagree). Still, it’s a comical and ridiculous look at the collateral damage suffered at the wings of airplanes, backed by cold hard facts. Bottom line: turtles should watch their shelled backs, and drones should still just be kept away from bigger aircrafts.