5 Reasons to Wear Protective Eyewear Around RC Aircraft

While the dangers of commercial helicopters are probably obvious with the possibility of debris getting into eyes, not to mention the dangerous blades whirling above the machine, the dangers of recreational or remote control helicopters may not seem as apparent. Even though remote control helicopters are not as dangerous Quadcopteras “real” helicopters, they still call for employing safety procedures and donning safety gear. Unfortunately, some simply view them as toys and fail to do what’s necessary to keep both operators and onlookers safe.

While no one wants to eliminate the fun, we must admit that mom was right when she said, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” And there are a lot of ways to get injured by remote control helicopters.

Before reviewing those ways, let’s first understand some of the “forces and velocities involved in a 30-size helicopter with average wood blades at 1800 rpm” as provided by Heliguy. First, each spindle, blade holder and nylon nut screwed to the helicopter must hold 270 pounds (122Kg) to keep the blades from flying away. And second, the tip speed of each blade is about 250 MPH or 413 KPH.

The force that the blades have is like having someone who can throw at about 50mph (81 kph) hit something with the tip of an 8 ft. (2.5m) ruler as hard as possible. If that something is a person, they would be in pain. The point being that the force of these blades, while not likely causing death, can do some serious damage. Heliguy also says to “remember, these statistics are for 30-sized helicopter blades. 60-sized helicopters are much more powerful, and their blades are considerably longer and heavier.”

While the strength of impact varies from one machine to the next, these numbers at least indicate a need to be cautious when operating and simply when near remote control helicopters.

Looking at this in a practical sense, what specific sorts of dangers can these types of forces present?

  1. Rotor wash: Air turbulence caused by a helicopter’s rotor can send flying debris into the air and likely into the eyes of the operator or nearby spectators. That is, unless eyes are properly protected.
  2. Inexperience: Quadcopters are very easy to fly for novice fliers, and most Quadcopters can hover automatically. Unfortunately, inexperience often leads to mistakes which lead to injuries. Making sure an operator isn’t flying a machine he isn’t ready for increases safety for both the operator and spectators.
  3. Location: Quadcopters tend to be closer to the operator than traditional RC aircraft, so the chance of being hit is increased. Also, some aircraft are made for indoor operation, which increases the chance of injuries like corneal abrasions (scratches to the surface of the eye).
  4. Adverse conditions: Outdoor weather conditions and malfunctions often lead to errors and accidents, especially when not taken into consideration prior to takeoff.
  5. Maintenance: Every landing, general use and even minor crashes put stress on aircraft that can lead to breakdown. While having a maintenance program makes logical sense and many pilots implement them consistently, they can get neglected as adrenaline from the excitement of the sport flows.

In addition to common sense, taking time to learn how to operate the aircraft, and making sure aircraft is properly maintained, wearing protective eyewear helps ensure that the most likely injuries don’t happen.

What’s the best option that doesn’t compromise style or comfort and take away from the enjoyment of the sport? And what options work best for indoor operation?

Goggles provide whole-eye protection by eliminating any space through which debris can make its way to eyes. Perhaps goggles aren’t your thing as you’d like to wear something a bit more fashionable. Then safety glasses with good wrap-around protection provide a solid alternative. Some are even available with a foam-lined lens, which provides protection from flying debris, similar to a traditional goggle. There are a lot of lens options as well that make wearing protective eyewear just as functional indoors as outdoors.

Taking time to plan for safety can keep the sport of flying remote control helicopters – and most other sports for that matter – safe and fun.

Eye Injury by Age Group

Eye InjuryProjectile objects and flying debris represent about 18% of all reported eye injuries, with blunt object injuries making up just over 13% of injuries. In third place comes injury caused by fingers, fists and other body parts (10%). And in fourth place at about 9% is injury from sharp objects such as a fishhook or glass shard.

In case you weren’t counting, we’ve just accounted for 50% of all reported injuries. The remaining 50% comes from a variety of causes including sports equipment, automobile airbags, paintballs, bb guns, pellet guns, furniture, household chemicals, firearms, and fireworks.

As reported in Who Is At Risk for Greatest Eye Injury? almost half of the 2.5 million eye injuries reported annually occur in individuals ages 18-45. Many of the same type of injuries, primarily the ones listed above, occur as much in the over-45 age group as in the 18-45 age group. But, less injuries occur overall in the older group probably due to increased caution and decreased activity and risk that usually accompanies aging.

The second largest age group (25%) receiving the most eye injuries are children. Even more specifically, older teens and young adults in their late twenties present the highest numbers of eye injuries. Of the total number of injuries, 73% of them are received by males.

While older teens and young adults represent the highest number, no one remains exempt from receiving an eye injury. The article Children Need Eye Protection Too details the hazards facing young children with regard to eye injury as well as gives measures for preventing injury in the first place.

So that leaves one group yet to cover with regard to risk for eye injury… the elderly. In this age group, falls cause the most eye injuries. More specifically, loss of balance resulting in falls.

Preventing injuries caused from falls starts with a visit to the doctor to address any health issues. Then, make sure an individual’s home provides sturdy support structures for moving about and that paths for everyday activities are safe and clear.

While we know that 90% of all eye injuries can be prevented using protective eyewear and that every home should have at least one pair of safety glasses, we need to realize that eye injury prevention also comes through making the environment itself safer as well.

This means realizing that most eye injuries take place at home and then doing what we can to prevent eye injuries in the home. This also means making sure the age of individuals in a home is taken into consideration and appropriate measures follow based on that information, especially when young children or the elderly are involved.

5 Most Common Types of Eye Injuries

In the United States, over 2.5 million eye injuries happen every year with 50,000 people actually losing at least part of their vision as a result. Of that 2.5 million, almost 18% are caused by projectile objects, 13% by blunt objects, 10% by body parts (fingers, elbows, fists, etc.), and 9% by sharp objects.

Of the millions of eye injuries that take place each year, almost half of them (44%) occur in the home and 40% during sport activities. The remaining 16% is taken up by miscellaneous injuries and work-related injuries.

So, regardless of location and how the injury happens, what types of injuries happen most frequently? The following are the 5 most common.

  1. Scratched Eye. Most commonly, an eye becomes scratched when a foreign body enters it and the individual then rubs the eye in an attempt to remove the irritation. Eyes also become scratched when they are poked by a foreign body. A scratched eye can become serious very quickly, with a fungal infection for example, so seeing a doctor if there is noEye Protection improvement in a day or two is crucial. In addition, a scratched eye can be worse for individuals who wear contacts.
  2. Chemical Burn. This type of injury can happen when a chemical is splashed into the eye or transferred from an individual’s hands. Fumes and vapors can also cause chemical burn to eyes. Finding out the type of chemical, acid or alkali, is crucial since one (acid) can be washed out more easily than the other (alkali). If eyes become red or blurry or do not improve after 24 hours, see a doctor.
  3. Flash Burn. Burns to the eyes also can come from sources such as sunlight, welding, tanning booths and sunlamps. Protecting eyes against sunburn, Yes, Your Eyes Can Get a Sunburn, and taking precaution in welding and other situations is key to preventing flash burns.
  4. Foreign Object in Eye. An object in the eye often leads to a scratched eye (see #1 above), and can be caused even just by an eyelash, dust, contacts and makeup. While time and eye flushing can remove these objects, when a foreign object, such as a fish hook, actually penetrates the eye, self removal is not a good idea. Instead, getting to a doctor right away is important.
  5. Blow to the Eye. These types of injuries happen often in sports, and the result is usually a swollen, black and blue eye. It’s important to check for additional injury, such as a broken eye socket or internal damage, when a blow to the eye occurs.

Perhaps the most startling fact regarding eye injuries, regardless of type and cause, is that 90% of ALL eye injuries could be prevented by wearing protective eyewear. Yet, only 50% of people wear them when working around the house, which is the most likely place to receive an eye injury.

The second factor crucial in preventing permanent eye damage and vision loss is knowing what to do, and sometimes more importantly what NOT to do, if injury does occur.

The following resource list will help you take these two crucial steps, wearing protective eye wear and being prepared if injury does occur.

Take Time to Focus on Eye Health & Safety

Fishing: A Dangerous Sport?

How to Remember to Wear Sunglasses

UV Protection – Eliminating Excuses

Be Eye Safety Conscious: 5 Ways To Prevent Common Eye Irritations

Basic Welding Safety

Eye Emergencies: Do You Know What to Do?

Eye Injuries Can Occur at Any Time and in Any Place

Importance of Good Eye Safety Habits

Safety Eyewear and Emergency Eyewash: Prevention and Preparation Matter

Safety Eyewear in the Kitchen: For Adventurous Chefs to Everyday Cooks