A British Airways plane landing at London’s Heathrow airport collided with a commercial drone on April 17. The Airbus A320 was able to land safely with no damage to the plane or passengers. It is unclear whether the collision was intentional or accidental, as authorities are still working to identify the person operating the drone. Authorities maintain that the biggest concern involves the potential of a terrorist using the drone to attack an airplane.
This is the first incident of its kind in Britain, but many argue that it will definitely not be the last, given that there have been seven near misses in the past year. Steve Landells from the British Airline Pilots Association argues that, due to their battery packs, drones pose a higher threat to disrupting an airline’s flight than birds. Recent high demands for consumer drones have also contributed to increased levels of security.
One possible solution to minimizing the risk of drones is to require that all drone owners register in a single database. Implementing “geo-fencing” – a system using GPS software to limit the boundary for where the drone remote-control works that would restrict access to security sensitive areas – might also be effective. Whatever the measure, authorities agree that something must be done to limit the potential consequences of commercial drones.