Instances of drones disrupting airspace are becoming more common. Three reported drone incidents in recent weeks should have airports more concerned about the dangers of drones flying near airports and airplanes.
Wellington, New Zealand
The most recent drone incident on November 11, ended with the Wellington Airport halting all flights and airport operations for nearly 30 minutes. The delays came after a drone was spotted flying dangerously close to the runway. Reports indicate that ten flights were delayed Sunday evening.
An Air Nelson plane approaching the city spotted the drone around 6:30 pm. While no one was able to locate the operator, pilots on the ground reported seeing the drone for another 23 minutes after the initial sighting. General Manager of air traffic services, Tim Boyle, said that the drone was operating at 183m three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the end of the runway in the Evans Bay area.
Even though this wasn’t a near-collision, operations had to be halted out of precautions. Airport personnel and transportation security officials can have a hard time predicting UAS flight paths and locating UAS pilots without drone detection technology. Drone detection can give airports real-time information to make informed decisions on safety and operations.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an Endeavor Air (subsidiary of Delta Air Lines) flight reportedly encountered an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) near Boston Logan International Airport on the morning of November 7th.
The flight crew reported seeing the drone around 11:15 a.m., about 15 miles NW of Boston Logan Int’l Airport. The airplane landed safely and did not have to make any evasive maneuvers to avoid the drone. The FAA and MA State Police are investigating the incident.
The U.K. Airprox Board released a report of a near-miss between a Virgin Atlantic Airliner and a drone that happened earlier this year on June 25, 2018. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, this was the closest near-miss on record in the United Kingdom. The report revealed the drone illegally reached 3,200 feet and came within 10 feet of a Virgin Atlantic jet, endangering the 264 passengers onboard.
There has been an increase of drone sightings near airports in the U.K. and elsewhere around the world. In the U.S., the FAA reportedly gets more than 250 sightings a month of drones posing potential risks to planes, such as operating too close to airports. As reports of close calls between drones and airliners have surged, so has the number of near-collisions between airplanes and drones. Unauthorized drones flying near airports can put planes, pilots, and passengers in danger.