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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!

MEMORY LANE

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.

Please do, however, consider supporting our work by purchasing through affiliate links.

You pay the same purchase price as you would normally, but TDC receives a small commission. It is this small commission that helps ensure our survival.

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