As a frequent flier, I'm just concerned about my own safety.

Could a larger consumer drone, such as DJI Inspire, (intentionally) "take down" a passenger plane?

When I say take down I mean causing the plane to crash or emergency land.

I guess just a contact would not do too much harm but could it do some when flying in the engine?

Considering that larger drones can easily carry bigger cameras, it could also carry a 1kg or similar of explosives.

Are drones the biggest threat to commercial airlines as anyone can buy them and the chance of finding the pilot is very small?

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    $\begingroup$ Just a comment, but I firmly believe, at least in the US, this would happen exactly once. As soon as it was proven to have been a drone that was used, all drones flown privately would be grounded and controlled in some fashion as to make their continued use by private or commercial entities impractical/illegal. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 3 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ There are cases that may be really dangerous, e.g. losing an engine when landing, so close to the ground, that there is no time for the crew and the aircraft to react. The EU (EASA) is preparing a regulation where all drones will be sending an individual ID, like a transponder. Unidentified drones will then be considered unfriendly, and likely destroyed (or captured) by another drone. This regulation also creates three categories of hazard. That said (today) drones are less a problem than birds, which already caused crashes. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Nov 3 '17 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is likely that it could in some weird fringe edge case but with all the restrictions and precautions around their use I cannot see a scenario where this would. I mean for starters the construction of almost any drone barely could survive a rough landing even a high quality drone like a dji still will just shatter if hit right. $\endgroup$
    – Zissouu
    Nov 3 '17 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Note that "emergency landing" doesn't have to mean the plane is crippled. You might consider Swissair Flight 111; they were descending for an emergency landing long before actually declaring an emergency (though they did declare a situation of urgency). That particular flight ultimately crashed, but many urgency and even a substantial number of emergency situations end with no casualties and minimal additional damage (beyond what caused the urgency/emergency situation to begin with) to the aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 3 '17 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Airliner can usually take a hit of something like the size of a turkey and consumer drones isn't much smaller than that. $\endgroup$ Dec 18 '17 at 17:08

If your definition of drone is any remote control aircraft freely available to consumers, then the answer is yes, but highly unlikely.

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Its very unlikely, but it is possible. First, I'd like to point out that Radio Controlled Aircraft (RC Aircraft) have been available to consumers since at least the late 1950s. Hobbists build RC aircraft all the time, and when I was a kid I built my own RC aircraft that was much bigger than most commercially available "drones". To focus on drones alone misses a big slice of the pie. RC aircraft are sometimes built as 1/4 scale models of the original aircraft and can weigh 100lbs or more, so imagine a remote control aircraft that is 25% the size of the real aircraft.

So, the potential has always been there for at least the last half a century for a remote control aircraft to have enough mass to potentially cause a serious collision with a real aircraft. Imagine if a couple of 18lbs geese took down Flight 1549, what would a 100+lbs quarter scale RC Aircraft do.

Personally, I've never been too concerned with this because I've flown both RC aircraft and real aircraft. It would be extremely hard for a drone or RC aircraft pilot to target an aircraft and hit it in its most vulnerable locations such as cockpit or engines.

So, yes, its possible, but I would not lose any sleep over it.

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    $\begingroup$ Comparing RC model and quadcopters in the context of the question seems curious. RC model pilots have usually a certain knowledge and ethic. They are welcome, at least in my country, within aerodromes limits where they have their protected area and can gather and fly. Quadcopters can be bought at Wallmart or Lidl by anybody, who can charge them and fly within the next hour, alone, and without knowledge of anything. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Nov 3 '17 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @mins you make valid points. My point is that "drones" are just high tech versions of RC aircraft that have been around for 50 years. While its true that most RC pilots have certain knowledge and ethics, there is no requirement to have ethics or certain knowledge in order to buy a large RC aircraft. As early as the 90ies, there were pre-fab RC aircraft that were "Ready-to-Fly" out of the box that were much bigger than most of the quadcopters available today. Your point that quadcopters can be flying within an hour of purchase by anyone is important, and its why "drones" have become a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Nov 6 '17 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Devil07 Also, most drones come with sophisticated flight control systems, and most RC aircraft don’t (because where’s the fun in that!). Plus, drones (the ubiquitous type) can hover, and the RC 747 can’t. This means, unfortunately, it is much easier to get a modern drone stationary into the ILS glide path for that million-clicks-photo than to fly a photo pass with the hand flown RC 747. While potential damage is much higher in latter scenario, probability of the former is even greater... $\endgroup$ Dec 20 '18 at 20:08

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