Drone Interference at Airports – German Paradox 

Photo illus. by Pixabay no drone sign

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Drones flying near airports might collide mid-air with aircraft, posing a threat to airline safety. 

Germany has published statistics regarding drone interference at its airports, indicating that it remains a serious concern despite the reduction in air traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the German air navigation service provider DFS logged fewer reports of interference caused by drones at airports in Germany than in previous years. More than half of these occurrences, however, led to traffic disruptions.

DFS is responsible for air traffic control in Germany. It is a company organized under private law and 100% owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. 

In total, 92 drone-related occurrences were reported in German airspace in 2020, which was lower than in previous years (125 incidents in 2019, and 158 – in 2018). 

Proportionally, however, the volume of air traffic, which came in 56 percent below the previous year’s level, declined more than the number of such occurrences. Consequently, even with reduced traffic volumes resulting from the pandemic, drones had a massive impact on flight operations.

In one third of the cases, air traffic was severely restricted. Such restrictions have consequences. The spacing between arriving and departing aircraft may have to be increased, or it can mean that specific areas, such as individual runways, cannot be used. In extreme cases, no take-off or landing clearances can be issued. At the beginning of 2020, Frankfurt Airport was out of service for four and a half hours in total, following two occurrences with drones.

Under German law, unauthorized drone flights in the vicinity of airports are considered as dangerous interference in air traffic and are punishable with imprisonment for up to 10 years in Germany. DFS maintains that successful drone defense by regulatory and police authorities will only be possible with reliable drone detection, according to hstoday.us.