I am not afraid of flying and never have been. But THIS is starting to scare me – DRONES!

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I love flying. Either in the cockpit or as a passenger, I love getting up in the air. I have zero fear of flying. In fact quite the opposite; I am nervous until I get to the airport then I calm down (driving is really scary). Growing up with parents on either side of the planet has meant many long flights, and when very little a bunch of them as a “UM” or unaccompanied minor in the care of the airlines. So for me to say, for the first time ever, that I am starting to be scared says something. Let me explain and just what I am afraid of.

Drones come in all sizes. The one at the top of this post is huge. But big or small I would not want one to come in contact with a jet I was riding in. Sure the chances, depending on the size, that it could do any catastrophic damage to an aircraft is remote. But as the number of drone sales each year just keeps exploding the chances of some kind of event also increases exponentially.

Heck even during the worst part of the recent hurricane Harvey idiots were putting first responders lives at risk to get drone footage shots of the flooding. Clearly many people just have no reservations about flying drones where and when they should not and endangering others.

Now take a look what ClickOnDetroit.com reported last month from a Delta pilot about to land at DTW airport:

“DETROIT – The pilot of Delta Flight 833 from San Diego to Detroit saw something strange Wednesday as he was preparing to land the plane at Detroit Metro Airport.

The pilot said a drone came so close to the aircraft he could describe its color and count the number of propellers.”

Yikes! As we all know takeoffs and landings are the time when all the attention of the crew needs to be on flying the plane and not having to avoid man made obstacles in their flight path. And to those who say this is no big deal (like one blow hard AA pilot on the web) take a look at this recent post from TheLocal.se:

“Last week, planes were forced to hold or divert at Arlanda due to drones on two separate occasions. On one of those, two incoming flights were given special permission to land because they were low on fuel.”

You may or may not know this but jets do not fly with all the fuel they can carry. They fly with enough to get from A-B and a reserve if they have to hold or divert. The point is that I do not want to have to have an aborted landing or diversion because some fool wanted a neat shot of a jet in the air.

And if you really want to scare yourself today all you have to do is Google how much more frequently these kinds of events are happening this year. For example look at these:

And with more and more drones flying around I fear it is just a matter of time until we see a headline with more than just a near miss or close call. Plus an increase of diversions, while not as dangerous, sure does mess up your travel plans when you have to land in a city you did not intend to visit on your journey.

Bottom line this has me scared. I do not intend to stop flying anytime soon but I hope something can be done to prevent this from becoming a real nightmare for the aviation world.

What do you think about drones? Are you at all frightened by the increase of incidents we are seeing? Do you think one day someone will try to intentionally use a drone (or drones) as a weapon against a jet? Should there be stronger penalties for those who fly a drone anywhere near an airport? Let me know if you feel as I do and what you think in the comments below! – René


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  1. My fear is a Ruppell’s Griffon vulture or some 3 bar headed geese flying into a jet at +30,000 feet.. although super rare.. it has happened 🙁

  2. Drone registration and jail if you are in possession of a drone that Doesn’t have registration. The answer.

    I’m sure someone will be along soon to start screaming free speech or some other crap. You register you car, plane, etc… Why not a drone?

  3. There are rules for drone registration and operation already, but there are some exceptions as well, and it seems a fine is the only punishment for violations – https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/

    That said, with the way things are at the moment, it’s only a matter of time before there is a catastrophic incident, whether it’s accidental or intentional. I’m a bit surprised a terrorist cell hasn’t attempted this yet. Then again, using a vehicle as a weapon in crowded tourist areas has just recently become a method of choice, despite being rather obvious for years. There’s only so much we can do to prevent this stuff.

  4. If it’s a small comfort the drone we own has geofencing software which prevents it from being flown in restricted areas. However, while I would guess the vast majority of drone operators are responsible, there are always the few who will find ways around it.

  5. There should be much greater control over drones with much higher penalties. Birds are an act of nature and can’t really be controlled but flying drones dangerously are an act of human stupidity and, sadly, we have a lot of that going around.

  6. Registration of Drones makes about as much sense as gun regulation and regulation. The people who fly drones by airports are for the most part cluesless that there is an airport as close as it really is to their location. As a pilot I am well aware of them and see them often being used for fun and commercial uses. You cannot regulate stupid, people are just born that way! Similar to the guy last night at O’hare that asked for an upgraded seat since he had flow United twice in the last year and he was a frequent flyer! LMAO

  7. Technically, these are unmanned aerial vehicles, not drones, I think. Drones would be on complete auto-pilot and thus under the control of the intended software instructions. That, to me, would be less worrisome since airport interference-free operations are suppose to be mandated. These unmanned aircraft still have an idiot behind the controls, and i agree they are a dangerous new extension of modern narcissism.

  8. sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) are governed by FAA Part 107, which allows commercial usage. Our video production company has 4 drones now, and have the 107 certificate. We are even more careful, and certainly far more knowledgable, now than before we were certified. I think the vast majority of licensed sUAS operators will be like us, always trying to be aware of our airspace and safety.

    So agreed that it’s the unlicensed and hobbyists that need bulletproof controls against violating unsafe airspace. As Jeff said above, geofencing is a great tool for this. It needs to be integrated into the onboard flight system in such a way as to be unable to fly without it’s operation. Licensed operators can get temporary exemptions to fly in restricted airspace from the FAA that can then be entered into the flight control system. (This is already in place in DJI software.)

    I’m not up to date on other drone company’s software, but I’d say that any drone above some nominal toy size needs to comply with the above. This should make unauthorized incursions a relatively rare thing.

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