Sci-Tech

Drone takes on a lightning strike: Will it survive?

It's a conflict for the modern age. An intrepid drone goes up against an artificial lightning strike. Will it live to fly another day?

There's a magical place at the University of Manchester in the UK. It's called the High Voltage Laboratory and it's home to a massive impulse generator that can essentially emit up to a 2-million-volt lightning strike on demand. YouTube entertainer Tom Scott visited the lab to see what happens when a DJI Phantom 3 drone gets smacked by a massive electrical impulse.

Scott and the lab team flew the drone on a tether, charged up the machine and blasted the drone with the strike. It makes a loud bang and the drone drops out of the air. The slowed-down footage is a spectacle to behold.

"Surprisingly there were no visible marks on the outside of the drone, but that doesn't mean that the insides got away unscathed; as it turns out, the electricity took the path of least resistance and fried all the sensitive internal electronics," notes a blog post Monday from the High Voltage Lab.

The lab tried a second test with a backup drone equipped with copper tape, which was meant to act like a lightning rod. Spoiler alert: The impulse generator fried that drone, too.

The drones' failure to survive the experiment should act as a warning to drone operators: It's probably not a great idea to fly your expensive gear in a lightning storm. In a battle between a drone and a lightning strike, the lightning will win.

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