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Airports scramble to handle drone incidents

Drone tech company Elistair has invented a giant extension cord that keeps a drone tethered to the ground, but flying for much longer.

Posted: Mar 5, 2019 2:36 PM


Drones have become an increasing nuisance for airports worldwide in recent months, and good solutions to keep them from interfering with flights aren't yet available.

Airports in various cities -- including Newark, New Jersey; Gatwick, England; Dublin, Ireland and Dubai -- have grounded planes in the last three months following drone sightings.

The incident at Gatwick in December proved especially disruptive, impacting the flights of more than 100,000 passengers. In 2017, a drone hit a commercial airplane approaching Quebec City in Canada. The plane landed safely.

Aviation experts fear catastrophic damage or death could result from a drone hitting an airplane. Such an incident could be accidental or motivated by ill will, such as a terrorist attack. A 2017 FAA study found that drones colliding with large aircraft can cause more damage than birds -- a threat the industry has long faced. There's also a business risk. Airlines risk losing millions of dollars from flight delays and cancellations. If air travel becomes more unpleasant, some travelers may switch to other modes like trains or driving.

The problem is urgent and fixes are lacking, according to Chris Oswald, senior vice president for safety and regulatory affairs at the Airports Council International-North America, which represents airport owners and operators.

"One major underlying concern across industry sectors is the lack of tested and fully vetted drone detection and counterdrone systems," Oswald told CNN Business. "That's a big issue on all of our members' minds. What can we do? What are steps we can take to mitigate drone events? How can we be proactive in detection?"

So far there are more questions than answers. Technology like radar, electromagnetic waves and radio frequency interference to detect and counteract drones at airports aren't ready, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. For now, airports are relying on pilots to see and report drones. But it's difficult to confirm these sightings, and human eyesight isn't perfect.

Automated solutions for detecting drones are expensive, may interfere with airports' navigation system and don't always work, according to FAA tests conducted in late 2016 and early 2017. Hovering drones, for example, are hard for the systems to identify. And humans are needed to operate the detection technology and identify false positives. The FAA will be working on another test of the technologies, according to an FAA spokesman.

The FAA hasn't examined technologies designed to counteract rogue drones, such as jamming radio signals or shooting them down with an electromagnetic pulse or physical net. That appears likely to change. An FAA official said earlier this month that taking action against malicious drones is critical and would need to be executed carefully.

"We don't want to create a safety hazard while trying to mitigate a security risk," said Angela Stubblefield, the FAA's deputy assistant administrator for security and hazardous materials safety.

Some airports, such as Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, are already testing drone detection solutions. A spokeswoman for the airport declined to provide more details.

In addition, The NY NJ Port Authority, which operates Newark Liberty International Airport, held meetings earlier this year to review and improve drone detection protocols. Representatives from the FAA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, New York police department, U.S. Coast Guard, and the New York and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Forces all attended, according to a Port Authority spokesperson.

Drone experts see promise in the remote identification rules that the FAA is developing for drones. Remote identification will require drones to radio their position so that authorities are aware of where drones are flying. However, that won't help with identifying criminals who are intent on avoiding detection.

Someone could build their own drone or hack an existing drone to not make it available for remote identification.

Tim Bean, CEO of Fortem Technologies, is building a radar system to identify drones, even if they don't comply with remote identification.

"That 1% of flyers that want to shut down airports represent 99% of the risk," Bean said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
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Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
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Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
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Spencer317835
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Randolph312888
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Owen283863
Starke280064
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Blackford168334
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Brown135346
Martin128217
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Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
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