Drone Collision with Jet Highlights Growing Aviation Danger

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 0:39 AM

British police and air accident authorities were investigating Sunday'south incident, in which an Airbus A320 carrying one hundred thirty-seven people struck an object believed to be a drone at a altitude of about 1.700 feet (five hundred eighteen meters) while it was approaching Heathrow Airport.

Drone Collision with Jet Highlights Growing Aviation Danger

A collision between a British Airways passenger jet and a drone over London has left the plane undamaged but the aviation industry deeply shaken.

British police and air accident authorities were investigating Sunday'south incident, in which an Airbus A320 carrying one hundred thirty-seven people struck an object believed to be a drone at a altitude of about 1.700 feet (five hundred eighteen meters) while it was approaching Heathrow Airport.

The plane landed safely and was cleared to fly again after an inspection by engineers. But the incident has focused attention on the growing no of unregulated drones in the sky and the potential for catastrophe if they hit a plane — either accidentally or on purpose.

How many drones are out there?

The authorities don't know exactly, since tiny drones bought for private utilize frequently don't have to be registered, but the market is growing quick as drones become cheaper and easier to operate.

In Britain alone, electronics stores sold thousands during the two thousand fifteen Christmas season. Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at aerospace research company Teal Group, estimates there are "several million" drones in the United States.

Tony Tyler, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, told an aviation conference in Denmark on Monday that drones "are here to stay."

What're the rules?

Many countries distinguish between commercial drone operators, which should be licensed, and those used recreationally.

In Britain, operators don't necessity a license to utilize a tiny drone weighing less than forty-four pounds for recreational purposes.

Drones mustn't be flown above four hundred feet, should stay within sight of the operator and should and kept far from planes, helicopters, airports and airfields. Violators can get six months in prison and a fine — though prosecutions have been rare — but endangering the safety of an aircraft carries a maximum life sentence.

What could a drone do to a plane?

The biggest worries are a drone damaging the windshield or fuselage of a plane — with the extra danger that lithium batteries on the drone could ignite — or getting sucked into an engine.

Aviation systems expert Philip Butterworth-Hayes says there has been relatively small research on the impact of such a collision.

"We don't know what happens when a drone gets interior an engine," he said. "The only thing you can do [to discover out] is fly it into an engine, which is horrendously expensive. It'south not a test you wish to do all the time."

What can be done to slice the risks?

The British government is considering introducing a drone-registration scheme so the aerial vehicles can be traced back to their owners.

In the U. S, the FAA introduced a registration map in December, with owners facing a fine if they don't comply. More than 400.000 people had registered by the finish of March.

While new rules and better education are portion of the solution, technology will also be a key factor. Drones can be fitted with "geo-fencing" software that prevents them from entering restricted areas. But geo-fencing technology isn't a valid requirement for many drones, and criminals or those bent on terror could potentially disable the software.

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