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I read a bit about Precipitation Static buildup on the outside of aircraft flying through dust, rain, or snow. Can this also happen on a small drone and if so, could it interfere with controlling it?

The FAA has a question on their drone certification test that addresses this and I'm curious if a small/medium size drone would be affected by this.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The FAA has a question on their drone certification test that addresses this": I never noticed any certification test for sUAS aircraft on their site. What exactly are you referring to? $\endgroup$
    – ifconfig
    Apr 12, 2018 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ Also, related Q/A $\endgroup$
    – ifconfig
    Apr 12, 2018 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ Fly under the FAA's Small UAS Rule (Part 107): faa.gov/uas/getting_started $\endgroup$
    – jeremy
    Apr 12, 2018 at 20:59

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Static electricity buildup could affect communications. Static wicks on trailing edges of flaps, ailerons, rudder, elevator dissipate the static electricity. I would imagine drones could be mostly fiberglass construction, so some additional details need to go into construction to provide a path for the electricity to flow, vs an all metal craft where the outer skin can be that conductor.

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This is a good question. I have not found any research on small multirotor drones to indicate that static buildup is an issue that would affect either flight control or telemetry communications with the ground station. I believe this is because of the generally low velocity of the air movement over the components of the multirotor other than the propellers. Most multirotor drones are built with carbon fiber frames which are typically conductive due to their inclusion of carbon. There would naturally be a need to drain off any static from the frame with a thin metal filament only if that static were found to be an operational issue.

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