Drones and airports are historically two things that don’t go together. Just look at the time London Gatwick was closed for over a day during a peak holiday travel period, due to sightings of the unmanned aircraft. However, that could be about to change, according to a new initiative being trialed by Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport this week.
Passengers around the world know the impact of drones on airfield operations. Earlier this year, Frankfurt Airport was closed for hours following a drone sighting. Flights are typically halted in such instances as drones can cause catastrophic damage if they collide with commercial aircraft.
Drones over Schiphol
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is an airport that is known for its innovation. In April, Simple Flying reported that the airport was trialing towing aircraft from the gate to the runway. This would cut fuel consumption while taxiing by up to 85%.
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Now, Amsterdam’s airport is trying a new initiative, and it seems as though the current aviation crisis could’ve been useful for something. The airport has today concluded a one week trial of using drones for two different purposes.
Firstly, the airport was conducting trials to inspect taxiways, small buildings, and aircraft with the drones. The airport has also been trailing the transportation of light goods around the airport with drones.
How was this possible?
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management temporarily lifted a ban on drone usage at Schiphol Airport from June 18 until today (June 24). This meant that the trials were able to take place. However, restrictions still applied. Certified parties had to keep control of the drones and remain in direct contact with the airport’s control towers.
Of course, this was a highly controlled trial carried out in strict circumstances. As such, unauthorized drone operations weren’t permitted by third parties near the airport. Drones should never be flown near an airport without authorization from the relevant authorities.
Commenting on the trial, José Daenen, Director of Operations at LVNL said,
“Our plan is to integrate drones into our airspace in the future so that unmanned and manned aircraft can operate safely side by side. That is a challenging task. We see the current, quieter airspace as an opportunity to practice this and test procedures.”
Did coronavirus help?
Coronavirus may have helped to facilitate this trial. The pandemic has drastically slashed the number of flight operations occurring throughout Europe and the world. As such, it is easier to conduct such tests as there is less risk of conflicting traffic.
Indeed, we previously saw Essex Police flying a drone over Stansted Airport at a period when it only had around ten flights a day. With so few aircraft needing the airspace, the airport was comfortably able to close for a few hours during the day.
Do you think that regulated drones should become a part of everyday airport operations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!