If this video proves anything, it’s to never fly your drones during a lightning storm unless you want to be out a drone.
For such a dangerous stunt, there was surprisingly little planning. Tom Scott decided not to go into the video with a script. The YouTuber had one idea, however, and that was to take down a single drone with over a million volts of electricity. Scott ventured to the University of Manchester’s High Voltage Laboratory. The lab quite literally manufactures lighting; it serves as the United Kingdom’s largest multipurpose high-voltage lab.
The impulse generator can go up to 2 million volts. (Each capacitor handles 100,000 volts, and there are 20 capacitors.) In previous years, the lab has been used to test how lightning affects an aircraft. However, this marks the first time of a drone being tested. Technically, we guess drones qualify as “air” craft? Unlike most larger aircraft, the drone has more composite materials.
Scott used a pair of DJI Phantom 3 drones to meet their demise. The first Phantom, while fried, managed not to get blown entirely to pieces. The battery faired pretty well despite the million of volts thanks to its metal casing that serves as a Faraday cage.
Then the guys up the ante by making the second Phantom a lightning rod. The aircraft definitely disconnected from wireless control. The force of the strike even blew off the propellors. However, the damage was surprisingly minimal when compared with that of the first drone.
Plenty of drone enthusiasts have debated the merits of flying drones during lightning storms. Most of them say it’s not even worth the risk of losing several hundred dollars in equipment for a clear five-second video. The consensus of many Phantom enthusiasts? Keep the drone grounded, and learn how to get good slow-motion shots from a quality DSLR and clear camera lens.
Via Tom Scott