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What Happens to a Hovering Drone in a Moving Car?

This is one of has been keeping the Internet's geeks up at night for quite some time. It's a theory about what will happen to an RC helicopter hovering inside a train when this starts to move.
What Happens to a Hovering Drone in a Moving Car? 2 photos
Photo: YouTube screenshot
The textbooks might suggest one thing or another. But we know it's best to start a real-life experiment and see what happens. Car Advice did just that, but they don't like trains. Instead, they used a Tesla Model X and a Hyundai van. Both a tiny toy and a professional DJI drone were used, with mixed results we might add.

Some people think that because the drone is in the car, it will maintain its position. But just think of the sensation you feel in your eyeballs or guys when accelerating in a fast car. There's a bit of inertia there too, right? The same thing is happening here. All the air gets "pulled" to the back of the car (we know it's trying to stay still in relation to the earth).

The object in motion will always try to stay in motion, which means that when the car is traveling at a constant speed, the drone will stay still as well. It's the same with us human beings, which are stationary in relation to the planet we're on, but moving at high speed through the universe.

The helium balloon experiment is another fun piece of science. The air still rushes to the back of the car, but since this reduces density at the front, the balloon tries to "lift" itself in that direction.

On a side note, this is probably the only experiment where a cheap drone and a balloon are more useful than a $1000 DJI model. The sensors are trying to stop it from crashing into the back of the car, thus making it inposible to test.

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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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