According to a BBC report, Gatwick Airport closed its runway after hundreds of flights were grounded due to a drones being spotted over the airfield.
Gatwick Airport, also known as London Gatwick, is a major international airport, south of Central London. It is the second-busiest airport by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom, after Heathrow Airport. Gatwick is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe.
A Drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle; it is essentially an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system; which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two.
Drones are now being used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from military attacks to construction overview and agricultural surveillance.
However, drones can cause damage to aircrafts and cause trouble in airspace. Research on drone damage to aircraft is still limited but a number of institutions have tested a variety of impact scenarios and each seems to reach a different conclusion, the BBC report said.
The report quoted studies from University of Dayton which said major damage could be inflicted by drones if there was a mid-air collision with a plane.
Research from Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned aircraft system through research Excellence (Assure) in conjunction with the US’s Federal Aviation Authority suggested drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision and the lithium ion batteries that power them may not shatter upon impact, instead becoming lodged in airframes and posing a potential risk of fire, according to the BBC report.
“A drone greater than 2kg might break the cockpit windshield as well for certain aircraft.” A drone expert said.
In most countries it is illegal to fly drones within 1km of an airport and also for drones to fly higher than 400ft.
However some experts have said the 400ft rule does not really prevent collisions since landing airplanes could fly below 400ft.
Drones have even been used to smuggle goods into prisons, according to experts. Hence, systems that prevent radio signal transmissions to drones are tested out at prisons first.
For airports serious about protecting themselves from drone attacks, there is the option of a more sophisticated, if expensive, system, such as that offered by Quantum Aviation, which employs radar, radio frequency detectors and cameras to detect when drones are nearby and locate where they came from, the report said.
Airports and secure areas should aim to prevent drones from flying over by making it stop flying by using a ‘jam’ mechanism and send it back into default mode where it goes back to where it came from rather than crash land.
Geo-fencing systems can prevent drones from flying in some locations and offers warnings to drone operators flying near a restricted zone .Major drone makers have incorporated this technooogy into civilian drones.
Using geo-fencing technology or jammers are not the only ways to keep drones away from some locations. There are specialised devices that can bring down drones. There are also drones that can be used to ‘catch’ other ones such as drones that have nets to trap other drones.
Other technologies that can be used include laser related anti-drone inventions that can shoot a laser beam on the UAV to stop it from functioning.
Airports across the world will now consider strong anti-drone policies and drone related protection to keep untoward incidents at bay.