A recent Business Insider report has brought to the wider Worlds attention an incident where an experimental Amazon Prime Air drone set several acres of a wheat alight after crashing in eastern Oregon during a test flight last summer.
Details contained within the June 2021 FAA report seen by the publication, describes how the Amazon delivery drone prototype (Model MK27) was flying at an altitude of 160 feet before it suffered motor failure and crashed to the ground. The drone was seen “tumbling in uncontrolled free fall until it contacted the ground,” following which an “intense lithium battery fire quickly consumed the aircraft.” which then resulted in the field fire.
This is not the first incident Amazon have experienced with drones suffering failure, only a few weeks prior to this incident another delivery drone prototype crashed due to propeller failure although fortunately it did not result in a lithium battery fire.
Whilst the purpose of development is to push the drones to the outer limits to understand the operational boundaries, this does also highlight the inherent risk of lithium batteries dropping from altitude at speed and the potential for a fire on impact. This is true of all drones and something operators of drones should be mindful of.