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News & Insight

Don’t Think Drones Are A Danger To Planes? This Is How Much The Aviation World Disagrees With You

By Kishore Sawh on October 31st 2017

Last week I was to NYC, today I’m in Miami, tomorrow I’ll be back in NYC, and next week I could be in Jamaica, only to be in Phoenix shortly after, and you could be in Azerbaijan. This is the way of a world where jet engines have turned this massive planet into a village.

Air travel has come a long way in 100 years with little to no new threats, but drones are a big one, and to give a small idea of how grave a threat they are, one only need look at the absolute mayhem caused by a drone sighting near Gatwick airport. It’s done through a beautiful visualization, and highlights just how serious aviation specialists and authorities take this new threat.

On July 2nd this year, Gatwick Airport in England effectively shut down operations due to a drone sighting within the restricted airport airspace.

[RELATED: Drone Strikes Commercial Aircraft | First Official Recording Of Such An Incident]

The drone was sighted and reported by arriving aircraft, and upon that news the airport suspended arrivals and arriving aircraft are kept in two holding patterns nearby, which quickly begin to fill up, putting fuel strain on some aircraft who are forced to divert to other airfields before Gatwick reopened.

Shortly after, the airport reopens when no drone can be seen, only for it to be spotted again and forcing the airport to halt operations once more. Due to the repeating nature of the problem, another holding area is created and even more aircraft must now divert to other airports, creating more passenger anxiety, and more stress and congestion in the airways and at other airports.

Eventually the airport operations resumed after inspection, but not after what you can see is a major disruption in operations that would have cost the airlines and airports absurd amounts of money, and all in the name of safety. What you should take from this is that safety is paramount to anything else in aviation, and that those who know aircraft well understand the catastrophic potential of a drone strike to an aircraft.

I have belabored this idea on many occasions and not without significant pushback from those who seems to think drones aren’t quite the potential ‘menace’ to aviation that they are. That somehow a little misbehavior from a drone pilot is of little consequence, but hopefully seeing how seriously a sighting is taken will tilt things. Like anything else, done in the right manner they are fine, but as someone involved in aviation, my plea is that you as drone operators grasp the responsibility and take heed.

Source: NATS

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. barbara farley

    Flying a drone is ridiculously fun but I have to admit that if I had realized all the negatives of flying a drone, I probably would not have bought it.  I can see by posted drone shots that some people don’t worry about flying high above people.   I would (sadly)  give up my right to own a drone because there are too many reckless people with drones out there and I don’t want to see an aviation tragedy.  I hope it never happens but I do worry that it is very possible.

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  2. Felix Wu

    This seems such a madness

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  3. Jonathon Newton

    Just a question… Do you really believe the demographic that this article is aimed at are reading these or visit SLR Lounge?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      This is a general and broad-audience topic, for sure. And, as we deal a lot with wedding photography, certainly it’s sensible given the proliferation of drone use among the type.

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  4. Dave Smith

    You seem to be on some sort of mission.  These “sightings” have been more often then not, not a drone. It’s just part of the hysteria and a campaign to a total ban. 

    The plane that was supposed to be the fist evidence of a drone striking a plane and you fanned those flames, well they’re not even sure if it was a drone or not. There is no evidence it was a drone or a a bird. 

    The real problem in aviation is pilot error, not drones.  Just google pilot error, you’ll have pages of results and you’ll see the carnage “real” pilots cause. Obviously, pilots need more training with how common “pilot error” is the cause for crashes and killing people. Drones have killed how many people colliding with planes?  Or injured how many people colliding with planes?  Yup, ZERO. 

    Now with you’re fanning the flames again with an unconfirmed “drone” sighting.  They see something flying now and it’s automatically a drone. 

    Here are some “real” pilots in action,  “The FAA reports that 38 aircraft have violated the temporary flight restriction near Palm Beach since February. In total, nine of those violations resulted in intercepts, which means fighter jets scrambled to flank the aircraft and escort the plane out of restricted airspace.”

    What’s the cost to tax payers having to scramble fighter jets to escort  “real pilots” out of areas they’re not supposed to be flying in?  Where is your outrage?  

    “Real pilots” flying is restricted airspace in nothing new. 

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    • Jonathan Brady

      The article isn’t about pilots flying actual aircrafts. It’s about wannabe pilots flying a toy and creating havoc.
      Personally, I think drones need to be banned. MOSTLY because I think they’re stupid and it would make me quite happy for them to be relegated to history books. But, also because literally anyone can get a drone, not follow the rules, and take lives WAY too easily. I said it in the last article on drones; drones will be the weapon of choice in the future. We’ve already seen drones with guns mounted on them AND USED. A drone was able to land on a naval ship undetected. Drones have struck planes and it’s only a matter of time before one strikes a plane in the right place and takes it down. And drones have the ability to carry a payload which could easily take down a building. Heck, put several drones on a mission together and attack a building all at once. This is jihad with the ability to live to fight another day.

      I think drones should be shot down immediately. Art be damned.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      You’re making the same argument you did before, and your statements are empirically
      incorrect. You speak of ‘no evidence’ as if you’re part of the
      investigative team. The drone was sighted, twice in this instance, and
      in the past instance the drone did in fact hit the aircraft. Whether you
      choose to accept or not doesn’t change it. Frankly I’ll take the word of commercial pilots with more responsibility on their shoulders with souls on board than your decided skepticism and assumption.

      Then to go on and
      speak about breach of airspace and tax-payer costs of intercepts as if
      it’s in the same realm of discussion voids what you’re saying further.
      This has zero to do with it, and if you want to speak about that we can
      do that another time – you can’t expect anyone to address all issues in
      one post.  This is about drones and aircraft.

      Nothing in this story has to do with pilot error, and you don’t seem to grasp the fact that the whole idea here is to avoid the disaster that all of us in this industry (aviation) know is possible.

      Dave, I’m afraid you’ve lost the plot.

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    • Benton Lam

      Oh yes, you keep saying there’s no evidence that it’s a UAV strike.

      The Transportation Safety Board of Canada must be fake news, right? 

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    • Sean Reese

      I think what he is getting at is that drones are now being purchased by the thousands every year and it will become a HUGE problem. My house and neighborhood sit directly in the flight path of a military AND a commercial airport. (They share the runways). Could you imagine if a military transport where to suck up a drone in one of the engines? Have you seen what happens when a bird gets sucked into an engine? They actually bend and in some cases break the blades on the turbines. What do you think would happen if a drone hit those blades? It would more than likely explode the engine since it would break off a lot more blades than a bird would. Not to mention the explosive batteries and in some cases FUEL that are used to power these drones. Drones are dangerous around airports period and should be illegal to fly them anywhere near airports or the flight paths.

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