The Drone Dilemma

Since we began to fly, birds colliding into planes has been a major problem for pilots. Now, the airline industry is facing a similar problem with drones, except that drones do far more damage than birds. While we haven’t experienced a loss of life due to collisions with drones, airline administrators fear that’s just a matter of time. In 2017, a commercial plane collided with a drone as it attempted to land at a Canadian airport. While the flight landed safely, the incident shows that there’s reason to fearĀ drone collisions.
As drones become a bigger problem for pilots, officials worry that future collisions might not all be accidents. It’s perceivable that terrorists might use drones in a deliberate attempt to bring down planes. Either by accident or intent, a drone collision can do significantly more damage to a plane than the damage caused by collisions with birds.
In addition to the cost of repairing planes and endangering passenger’s lives, the drone problem is already creating a financial burden. Airlines are having to delay or cancel flights due to drone activity. The inconvenience this causes to passengers is driving them to look at other modes of transportation. It may ultimately be cheaper, faster, and safer to travel by train, automobile, or cruise ship.
The problem has led the FAA and airlines to look for tech solutions. In particular, officials are hoping that new methods of detecting drones will soon be developed. The ideal situation would be to implement a technology that would allow airports to detect and divert drones, before they pose problems for flights. The main concern is to ensure planes can take off and land without drone interference.
Currently, airlines are relying on their pilots to visually detect drones, although this is far from an ideal solution. The pilot will rarely see the drone soon enough to change to an evasive heading.
There are some detection systems currently on the market. However, in addition to being extremely costly, these systems interfere with the navigational equipment at some airports. They’re also not quite as effective, especially in identifying a stationary, hovering drone. These systems also require extra manpower to operate. Until new and more effective technology can be developed, the drone problem is expected to escalate. It seems to be just a matter of time, before a drone collision causes a forced landing and claims passenger’s lives.