Tom Scott with the University of Manchester lightning striking a DJI Phantom 3
Zap! Phantom 3 fried by lightning via YouTube

We’ve decided that Tom Scott has one of the coolest jobs in the world. He gets ideas for interesting science-related things (that invariably seem like a ton of fun) and then carries them out.

His latest escapade, however, really caught our attention. Tom took a couple of DJI Phantom 3s to the University of Manchester‘s High Voltage Laboratory. Inside that facility, they have a giant Tesla-like machine capable of producing well over a million volts for the purpose of, yes, creating lightning strikes.

And so, with the cooperation of the facility’s researchers, they put a Phantom 3 into the air, along with what appears to be a grounded tether. And then – snap, crackle, pop! – they fried the poor device. But there was a pretty remarkable result, which we’ll touch on after you watch this piece of terrifying awesomeness:

Lesson one: Don’t fly your drone when there’s lightning around, don’t fly your drone in this lab unless you’re in that safe control room – and never stick your tongue into an electrical socket.

Lesson two: The battery in that first test SURVIVED!


We’ve had some experience here at The Digital Circuit with the incredible resilience of DJI batteries. In our case – though it makes us feel a little sick to remember this moment – a truck ran over a Phantom 4 Pro that we were testing right around the time this site launched. It was a big truck, with big tires. And it drove directly over the top of our drone. (Please, please don’t tell us we shouldn’t have left it there for even a second. Trust us, we know that. Really, we know. We’d sooner, in fact, give you a bag of coarse salt and offer up a wound for you to pour it onto.)

The point is, at least with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, that the battery was so well-protected by that model’s magnesium core that is survived the giant truck with the huge weight and the knobby tires. It still worked, when we were anticipating a rupture or possibly even a fire.

And here, too, the battery survived a trial by lightning – which is pretty amazing.

Tom Scott, you have a really cool job – and two fewer Phantoms.

(By the way, it looks like you had way more fun than we did with the truck.)

Don’t play with matches. Or lightning.

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