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Drones are safe!

30 August 2021 by Adrienn Kerekes 0 Comments

You already knew that drones are safe. Here's more proof, in numbers. Flying drones is the safest form of flight ever. It's a bold statement, but it's true. We at DJI already know this because we have calculated it. Make sure of it yourself!

At the beginning of the year, we conducted a research on this topic because we wanted to express with numbers what drone operators already know by feel: drones are very safe. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed rules for identifying drones in the air that we fear would be too costly and complicated to succeed; we believed that these burdens were far out of proportion to the risks posed by drones.

DJI already knew that drone safety talk was unreliable. Last year, we published our report "Enhancing Safety", which systematically reviewed the available evidence of accidents involving drones colliding with or coming dangerously close to aircraft and helicopters. Our study showed that most "drone sightings" - indeed "drone collisions" - were with birds, bats, balloons, or did not happen at all.

But there is no substitute for data. And we had some data.

When you fly a DJI drone using the DJI GO or DJI GO 4 flight control app, you have full control over your flight log and image data, but you also have the option to anonymously share basic user data with us so we can understand how our customers use our products and how we can improve them - similarly to what other tech companies do. Only 35% of our users choose this, but this is enough to draw certain conclusions:
• In 2019, users in the United States who chose to share data with us made 9,632,454 flights with an average duration of 7.1 minutes.
• Extrapolating from this 35 percent to our entire DJI GO and DJI GO 4 user base, we estimate that 27.5 million flights have been completed.
• But that's not all - we conservatively estimated that DJI drone pilots are approx. 15% use other flight control apps, either from us (such as DJI Fly, DJI Pilot, and DJI Flight Hub) or from our software development kit partners, such as Drone Deploy and Measure. Adjusted for this factor, we estimate that DJI drones are the United
31.6 million flights were made in the United States last year.
• Many fly drones from other manufacturers; according to the FAA, DJI products make up 36% of the US drone fleet. With that in mind, there were 87.8 million drone flights in the United States in 2019.
• And if those flights lasted an average of 7.1 minutes, as DJI user data showed, that's a total of 10.3 million hours of drone flight.

You can see these calculations in detail in paragraphs 5-9 of the memo sent by DJI to the FAA. page, which is available for the first time at this link, but these numbers may even be low. In an FAA report released in the second half of 2020, they surveyed drone pilots and found that recreational pilots in the United States alone flew 1.5 million hours per month, or 18 million hours per year.

Whichever number is more representative, their significance is the same – in more than 10 million flight hours, not a single person has died as a result of flying a drone. Unlike other forms of aviation, drones have a zero fatality rate. DJI put it this way: “On this basis, UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) are without a doubt the safest form of aviation that has ever existed. By comparison, the general aviation fatality rate in the United States is 1,029 fatalities per 100,000 hours flown. While zero accidents will always be a goal, the accident rate for general aviation can be considered an "acceptable" level of safety without, as far as we can see, the public, Congress, or regulators demanding that the rules be tightened. If small unmanned aerial vehicle systems had such an accident rate that represents a level of safety “equivalent” to general purpose flight, there would be 103 fatal drone accidents per year. In contrast, this number is zero.”

As we mentioned in our "Enhancing Safety" report, drones are safe - and we're continuing to make them safer. At DJI, we've revised our GPS-based geo-restriction zones to keep drones away from airport runway approach air corridors (not just the airports themselves). We've included distance warnings in our drone control apps so pilots know when their drones are flying too far. And this year, we began installing AirSense receivers in new drone models weighing less than 250 grams, which detect ADS-B signals from airplanes and helicopters to alert drone pilots when one is approaching so they can steer the drone out of its path.

The number of drones in the world continues to grow, and it is encouraging that our data analysis shows that they are still a safe addition to the skies. As regulators continue to develop rules related to remote identification of airborne drones and routine flights at night and over people, this safety indicator shows why there is no need for new rules to add undue cost, burden and annoyance to drone pilots. Drones are safe and should be handled that way!

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