New Technology Could End Drone Disruption At European Airports

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Drone disruptions have become notorious at a number of European airports in the last few years, causing thousands of canceled flights. New technology, present at airports now, could help in detecting drones early and preventing disruptions. The anti-drone technology could be a gamechanger, allowing for seamless operations even with rogue drones around.

Gatwick Drones
European airports have been repeatedly shut down due to reports of drone sightings near aircraft. Photo: Gatwick Airport

Severe disruptions

The first major case of a drone disruption came in 2018 at London’s Gatwick Airport. The airport had to shut down intermittently for three days after suspected drones were spotted near the runway. The shutdowns caused millions in losses for airlines and left thousands of flights affected.

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Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport shut down intermittently for three days in 2018 due to drone sightings. Photo: Chris Sampson via Flickr

Other airports have been hit by similar issues in the last year, with Frankfurt and Heathrow shutting down for hours, causing major disruptions across Europe. Drones pose a severe risk to aircraft and can cause engine failure if they come in contact. Hence, airports are shut down even at a possible sighting of a drone.

Anti-drone technology

Now that we know the kind of havoc drones can cause on planes and airport schedules, let’s jump into a potential solution. DroneShield, an Australian company, has created a system known as DroneSentinel which can detect incoming rogue drones. The system allows airports to track these drones and take action before they enter airport airspace.

To achieve this, DroneSentinel has a range of around eight kilometers and can create a geofence. The geofence allows drones to be tracked within the vicinity of the airport and report their exact location on a satellite map.

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DroneSentinel_08
The system can track drones up to 8kms away and notify the airport. Photo: DroneShield

DroneShield provides an all-in-one solution, also manufacturing the DroneGun. The DroneGun can be used to disrupt RF communications between the drone and its operator, forcing it to land or return to base. The combination of the two could be an effective solution to rogue drones, although it’s unclear how it would hold up against protests.

Testing in progress

Currently, the DroneSentinel is currently being tested at an unknown “mid-tier European airport”. If it proves effective there, the technology could be deployed more widely throughout European airports. The technology will also be helpful in ensuring that reports of drone sightings are confirmed, preventing closures due to suspected sightings.

Schiphol Airport, Drone Trial, Drone Flights
Airports are also using drones for more productive activities, such as checking taxiways and transporting goods. Photo: Schiphol Airport

Contracts for anti-drone systems can cost millions depending on the size of the airport, making it important to thoroughly test the technology first. The recent drop in daily operations at major airports also allows for more tests, which couldn’t be carried out if traffic remained high.

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Not all drones are bad though, Schiphol Airport began testing drones to carry out minor operations last month. The drones could be used to inspect taxiways and buildings, and also carry light goods around the airport.

What do you think of anti-drone systems? How should airports deal with drones? Let us know in the comments!

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