50 ATW | March 2019 | atwonline.com
drive a holistic analysis for the risks and the extent of
the impact of a collision of a drone with an aircraft.”
Meanwhile, manufacturers of counter-drone equip-
ment say the necessary technology is already available
and expressed frustration that airports and authorities
are not being more proactive in meeting the threat.
“We have a solution that is available now that can
prevent a catastrophic event,” Megan Farris, program
director for CACI’s Sky Tracker counter-drone systems,
told ATW in January. “At a minimum we can provide
situational awareness to avoid such an event. It’s there
and ready to go. It is frustrating.”
Airports, Farris said, “continue to get warning signs,
but have a tendency to be reactive. Tey move faster
when there is a catastrophic event, but we can do this
now if they will think out of the box.”
Many smaller airports are waiting to see what the major
airports do before placing orders for their own counter-UAV systems, according to Robert Garbett, CEO of
consultancy Drone Major Group.
He said airports should adopt a risk-based approach
and not necessarily cease operations simply because a
drone has been sighted in the general vicinity—perhaps
well away from approach and takeoff paths. Airports
tend to overreact, he said, adding that there was “
absolutely no reason” to close Gatwick for three days.
Garbett’s organization helps airports assess their
requirements and decide on the most appropriate
anti-drone equipment. Tere is a risk, he said, that
some drone detection systems produce too many
“false positives,” potentially disrupting airport operations unnecessarily.
Te risks posed by drones to commercial airliners
are overstated, Garbett believes. A recreational drone
sucked into an airliner’s turbofan is likely to be chewed
up and spit out, he said. Te biggest danger is that its
battery might explode and cause some internal engine
damage, but he said it is unlikely that would bring
down an aircraft. Similarly, the chances of most drones
penetrating a windscreen were low, he said, although
this is one area where aircraft manufacturers should be
undertaking tests like those used to assess an airliner’s
ability to withstand bird strikes.
Ultimately, he said, the main solution to the prob-
lem is education of drone operators and people in com-
munities near airports.
“It’s not difficult … to get the addresses of everyone
within a certain radius and contact them saying, ‘If you
see somebody operating a drone, phone this number,’”
Airports should visit local schools to alert pupils
about the risks of unsafe drone flying, he said.
“Tat’s a very much more cost-effective way than
spending thousands of pounds on a piece of equipment
that’s possibly going to cause more false positives,” Garbett
Educational advertisements on television would be
another method of driving home the risks of thoughtless drone use.
Beyond that, however, some form of physical disruption of a drone’s flight may be necessary, requiring
police or the armed forces to operate specialized equipment, Garbett said. He added that there are currently
few systems capable of taking down a drone flown by a
determined criminal or terrorist, although new technology is being developed at a rapid pace.
“Te problem with the counter-drone industry is
that it’s a bit of a cottage industry,” Droneshield CEO
Oleg Vornik said.
Hundreds of concepts have been proposed but most
are untested, he said.
“Te FAA ran a batch of trials around two years ago
and nothing ever transpired in terms of what was recommended,” he said.
Incorporating geographic no-go areas in a drone’s control systems during manufacture—known as geo-fenc-ing—is increasingly regarded as essential to preventing
unwitting or uncaring drone operators from impinging
on an airport’s airspace. A determined operator, however,
could likely find a way to disable this feature.
A DISPLAY announces drone-related flight
disruptions at London Gatwick Airport.