This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a report on the impact of drones hitting aircraft. The report verified that a collision between a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and a commercial aircraft would be catastrophic, and simulations show that drone collisions inflict more physical damage than that of an equivalent size and speed bird strike.
This year alone, the FAA received over 2,000 drone sighting complaints, for an average of almost 200 reports each month. These numbers are an increase from approximately 1,800 complaints in 2016 and 1,200 in 2015. During a congressional hearing this week, Deputy FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell said, “The potential for conflicts between manned and unmanned aircraft has become a very real challenge in integrating these technologies into the national airspace. The increasing number of these reports is of great concern.” The Trump Administration and Department of Transportation recently announced that they would support at least five pilot projects supporting UAS integration into communities across America.
The AAAPO has long raised concerns regarding the dangers to airports and airplanes as the number of drones proliferate in the United States. Airports must have the capability to proactively detect and deter drones from violating airport airspace, as the consequences could result in disaster.
“It is not a matter of if, but when a drone will take down a plane if we do not prepare for the possibility,” says Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and co-founder of AAAPO. “While we appreciate the FAA study, we already knew a UAS strike could be devastating to an aircraft. Furthermore, our intelligence agencies have warned us about terrorists who have threatened to use UASs to drop explosives or unleash biological attacks on U.S. soil. The writing is on the wall. We need to get serious about the threat that drones pose to the security of the flying public and take proactive steps to prevent tragedy.”
“We can’t just sit idly by as these things keep revving up and flying all over the place,” says Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association and co-founder of AAAPO.
“Just think about a drone crashing into a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 around Newark or JFK. You think a bird hitting a plane is bad? That’s nothing compared to a drone smashing up against a commercial jet or getting stuck in an engine. A lot hangs in the balance here and we need to do something now.”