Don’t panic, but do tell someone quietly and calmly. That’s the condensed version of the thoughtful analysis and advice provided by Wayne Lonstein, CEO of VFT Solutions, in a commentary for Forbes addressing this all-too-modern of dilemmas. As for national regulators including transportation officials and aviation authorities, well, they have their work cut out for them.
- The rapid rise (get it?) of drones holds enormous potential in all branches of economic activity, from military and research applications to distribution, recreation and so on. And the capabilities are getting darn impressive: one commercial drone currently on the market has a range of 10,000 meters!
- As numerous incidents at airports around the world including London and Newark have demonstrated, however, drones can also be something of a menace when they pop up in areas usually reserved for civilian aircraft. If nothing else, safety precautions mandate the grounding of airliners when drones of unknown provenance are in the area, resulting cancelations and massive inconvenience.
- And yet despite the best (well, ok) efforts of legislators, regulators and law enforcement, in the near term as the new technology spreads we are likely to continue seeing drones whizzing uncomfortably close to airplanes. So what should you do if you see a sporty little quadcopter buzzing near your wingtips?
- Lonstein writes: “First, do not immediately disturb the flight crew. When it is safe, calmly tell the flight attendant your observations quietly without causing alarm or panic. Remember, things look quite different when you are traveling hundreds of miles per hour at a high altitude. Furthermore, understand that although there have been instances where a bird or another object has been ingested into a jet engine, resulting in the aircraft being unable to fly, a large body of evidence reveals that most strikes do not result in a crash.”
- Further: “According to a 2017 report issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in connection with The Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), if a drone similar to the quad-copter I witnessed is ingested in a jet engine, the most likely scenario would not result in a catastrophic failure of the engine and crash of the aircraft.” The drone’s fate, presumably, is a different story.