back to article UK authorities probe 'drone hitting plane at Heathrow'

The United Kingdom's Metropolitan Police and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are both investigating an apparent collision between a drone and a passenger aircraft. British Airways says the pilot of an A320 landing at Heathrow on Sunday reported hitting something during the landing approach. The object has since been recovered …

Anonymous Coward

It's a nice idea, forcing everyone to adopt a new radio transmission protocol to ensure operators are easily identifiable, but most people will despise being forced to ditch their radio gear and buy new 'big brother' stuff, and the operators who don't want to be identified will simply buy old hardware or import hardware that doesn't transmit any unique identifable codes, or they'll even use non-standard frequencies for their radio gear that'll make it even more difficult to track down the operator.

And don't forget the ease at which it's possible to build a multi-rotor just from parts ordered individually from China, and most of those packages will simply be declared as "electronic parts" or similar, adding to the difficulty of tracking down drone owners.

Furthermore if you've set your drone off on a waypoint mission then you won't need to have your transmitter switched on and broadcasting your unique identifier...

In America the drone registration situation is completely daft, for example: what requires registration (image)

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Oh I forgot to mention: retail sales of transmitters are already regulated, because one cannot legally sell unregulated radio equipment.

On the other hand, retail sales of remote controlled aircraft are not, even even if they were, many hobbyists just build their own (but use retail radios for controlling them, since that's legal requirement). Arguably, my RC helicopter was "new" after each crash since I often had to replace large number of parts (but not radio, because it contained all setup data).

Also, any pilot with a clue of a remote controlled aircraft is aware of the insurance requirements and will understand the requirement to make his insurance public.

Hence, making it possible and obligatory for radio transmitters for squawk insurance identification would not cause this much of a trouble for those who are on the right (well there would be still one-off trouble - updating transmitter software for one). And it would make identifying those who are not, a little easier.

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Anonymous Coward

Do we register birds aswell? Damn uninsured birds! They should all carry radio transmitters!

@"One possibility to improve the matters is to change the radio protocols used for controlling both drones and RC models"

Nah, there's one company that dominates drones, that's Phantom, and their product won't fly within 5km of an airport. The software sets a progressive height cap to prevent it.

No need to actually change squat.

So at best we're talking about a kids RC toy, at worse, it was a bird the pilot mistook as a drone. I doubt he could identify a drone at those speeds, it would be a white blurr. But good excuse to raise linch mob! KILL ALL THE UNINSURED BIRDS NOW!

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I'll stay off ebay then. It' full of not-legal radio transmitters that you theoretically are not allowed to use in UK.

The drone 2.4GHZ is available for just about anybody, and almost any reason.

Rather like the proliferation of 1GHZ cctv transmitters...and 300MHZ etc...

http://newsthump.com/2016/04/18/drone-pilot-furious-after-uninsured-passenger-jet-crashes-into-him/

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In the real world, you can buy what you want from a wide variety of sources, and little chance of being apprehended when using it. Unless you want to be a pirate radio operator, in which case you will find it short-lived.

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uninsured birds?

You can normally tell when a bird has hit an aeroplane.

Parts of the bird tend to stick.

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@Voland's right hand

"I have actually. I was blamed to be one of the registered DC persons a while back when I was still doing sysadmin for a living."

And yet you don't seem to understand the Data Protection Act? That is one of the fundamentals of being a DC (You're in good company because some ICO employees' don't understand the act either)

However, being a DC doesn't mean you can just use the well worn line "Can't, Data Protection innit?".

Just remember, there is no "privacy law" in the UK (there are certain other laws which involve some aspects of privacy). The Data Protection Act is for the protection of stored personally identifiable information by certain entities in certain circumstances, not a right of privacy.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course!

No one will sell you? Apart from a) Ebay b) Amazon c) Dodgy Dave (the one in the pub with the sideline in recreational chemical enhancement - not the other one). Because clearly you can't buy anything that's illegal, ever. And a drone isn't exactly rocket science any more.

And even if you did impose some sort of code on a transmitter, that you can pick up for £20 quid off the net, and everyone registered them, and the secret police rounded up all the existing ones, that wouldn't deal with a) drones with inbuilt GPS set on autonomous flight paths, b) drones controlled through wifi or other non-regulated links

Face it;- drones are a technological genie in a bottle - and no amount of pious 'think about the danger' will put them back in a bottle. You can probably do some good things with education of 'good' users, but idiots will still be idiots. You totally can't do anything at all via legislation about people choosing to use them maliciously, when all that is needed is an arduino, some carbon fibre rods and a handful of electric motors. (although a pond in the garden, from personal experience, is quite a good way of curtailing their operation).

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Anonymous Coward

A dork is a dork..

I don't understand why anyone would think that getting close up video of a jet passing would be a good idea, considering it's likely to incriminate anyone whoever decides to show it off. Faecebook generation.

Probably some overpaid underworked teenager with a beard whose been reading 'My Little Jihad' and thinks its a cool way to be a bruvver.

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Re: Of course!

@AC yes of course, similarly you have TV license dodgers etc. The point being, it is relatively easy to spot unlicensed radio equipment - especially one where radio transmission is a necessary part of functionality, and that radio transmission can be easily verified to squawk (or not) necessary signature by any person/vehicle passing nearby.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: uninsured birds?

"You can normally tell when a bird has hit an aeroplane.

Parts of the bird tend to stick."

So remember kids, if you're flying your drone near an airport remember to tape a piece of dead bird to it so in the event of a plane hitting it the authorities will simply say "birdstrike".

*double thumbs up and a wink*

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TRT
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Re: uninsured birds?

"Your honour, regarding the photograph of the brown smears along the nose cone of the aircraft, which subsequent forensic analysis showed to be, in fact, breadcrumbs accompanied by a secret spice mix, the prosecution would like to enter into evidence a receipt found on the accused's person, said receipt detailing the purchase of a 'Bargain Bucket' from the branch of KFC located at 9 Bath Road, Hounslow, and another receipt from the Yeading Branch of B&Q for a tube of 'Gorilla Glue', also found about the defendant's person upon their arrest..."

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Anonymous Coward

Nah, there's one company that dominates drones, that's Phantom, and their product won't fly within 5km of an airport. The software sets a progressive height cap to prevent it.

No need to actually change squat.

Given that we presently DO have a report of a drone, your argument makes no sense at all - even if we believe the Phantom not to work near airports (does that include approach vectors as well?). Secondly, your discussion about birds is irrelevant because that is a KNOWN threat and is watched for.

From your squawking I can only assume it was actually you who flew that drone..

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Anonymous Coward

http://newsthump.com/2016/04/18/drone-pilot-furious-after-uninsured-passenger-jet-crashes-into-him/

That NewsThump article is actually rather good, thanks :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: uninsured birds?

So remember kids, if you're flying your drone near an airport remember to tape a piece of dead bird to it so in the event of a plane hitting it the authorities will simply say "birdstrike".

Too many force vectors at work - it will show.

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404
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Re: uninsured birds?

Wut? DARPA doesn't have bionic birds? Remember, reasonable doubt can set you free. /s

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"

As far as any use in residential area in order for it to be legal under existing law you have to be registered with the ICO as a data controller, have your details public ally available and have them displayed on the drone in a manner which makes them READABLE by the people you take pictures of. _THIS_ is what the regs on CCTV systems say. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW IS AND IT IS NOT OPTIONAL.

"

Complete poppycock. Maybe you should read the DPA before announcing your incorrect interpretation of it. Only data collected by *businesses* is subject to the Act in any case. From your interpretation, anyone taking a few holiday snaps would have to have a notice hung around their neck and be registered with the data controller.

Meanwhile, in the real World, any private person may operate a CCTV camera, even if it overlooks someone else's private property. It would be necessary for the other person to make a complaint that is upheld by a court.

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Vic
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Just put a tech-outfit to work on designing a solution that will detect and warn of the presence of unauthorised aircraft near airports and in especially within localiser coverage or climb out path.

The technology already exists - it's called ADS-B. Airliners carry it. Gliders seem to carry it. Stuff in the middle doesn't often bother...

I'd like[1] to see a "consumer-grade" ADS-B transceiver on the market which could be fitted to drones, GA aircraft, etc. Given sufficient volume, it should be quite cheap. The trouble would be getting people to fit them to drones if they're already intent on breaching airspace regulations...

Vic.

[1] Predominantly because I've used FLARM, and I like it, but I want something cheaper and more portable. If I knew the regulations for building a transmitter, I might even start building them myself...

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Anonymous Coward

In America the drone registration situation is completely daft, for example: what requires registration (image)

yes, hang gliding is a self regulated sport that requires no government certification or registration. however, this works for reasons that do not apply to drone operation:

1. there is a sequential ratings system for both pilots and courses.

2. most hang gliding locations require certification from a national body (USHPA, HPAC, etc).

3. untrained or poorly trained operators don't last long enough to be a threat to others.

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Anonymous Coward

@TRT

Why did I just read that in John Cleese's voice?

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"It is much more sensible than that."

It's also not applicable to domestic surveillance systems, nor does it apply to anyone operating a camera, smartphone, dashcam etc.

And - at the end of the day the only party who can actually do anything if they end up on EweToob is the person being filmed - where "being in a public place" is a pretty good defence against any such claim.

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"Set my migraine off the wanker. Should be classed as an assault."

It is. It's also bloody hard for the cops to actually catch the twats unnless they're stupid enough to not only laze a police helicoptor, but to keep on doing it when it approaches and not be standing in a crowd of people where they can blend in and ditch the laser (standing outside a pub is the preferred method for the local yobs, said pub has an intermittent problem with the CCTV not working when the police want to see it, unless it relates to assaults in the bar staff)

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"It would be necessary for the other person to make a complaint that is upheld by a court."

And the usual ruling is "perfectly ok" unless it's blatently pointing in someone's window.

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"I'd like[1] to see a "consumer-grade" ADS-B transceiver on the market"

I wouldn't. Nor would the CAA. the ATC system would be overwhelmed by the clutter in minutes if that happened.

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Vic
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I wouldn't. Nor would the CAA.

Do you speak for the CAA?

Because they were fairly keen on collision avoidance systems the last time I heard anyone speak on the matter - and ADS-B means much-reduced SSR load.

the ATC system would be overwhelmed by the clutter in minutes if that happened.

Why? ATC has nothing to do with ADS-B...

Vic.

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I wondered when someone was going to mention engine stress-testing. If you had 2 determined and well-trained Jihadi Jonathans, each commanding a 3D Robotics Solo with, say, a couple of grenades attached then you might just be able to bring down a twin-engined jet on final approach, but those are big enough for a pilot to see in advance. Given that the failure risk though is so high as to make this unworkable it would be far easier to station a flatbed truck directly under the approach and fire a series of large, home-made rockets into the wings or fuselage.

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LDS
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"a really stupid thing to do, as not only does it endanger passengers, it is punishable by law"

You meant the other way round, I hope? It looks to me that endangering lives is usually the most stupid thing you can do - regardless if it is punishable by law or not (usually it is, for obvious reasons...).

Even if you're the kind who likes to break rules, you should assess who will suffer from it. Are you the only one? Or you are putting other, maybe many people, in danger? Feel free to risk your own life, but you have no right to risk others.

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TRT
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Re: "a really stupid thing to do, as not only does it endanger passengers, it is punishable by law"

Other way around? Endangers the law and is punishable by passengers? Yes, I can see that working. "Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Heathrow. Just to inform you that during our landing approach we did come within 40m of a drone. The operator of the drone has been restrained and will be available in the secluded spot just underneath gate 12, where we've parked a luggage truck in front of the CCTV camera for you."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "a really stupid thing to do, as not only does it endanger passengers, it is punishable by law"

The operator of the drone has been restrained and will be available in the secluded spot just underneath gate 12, where we've parked a luggage truck in front of the CCTV camera for you."

"The operator has been restrained and will now be given the rubber glove treatment by our most thick-fingered security inspector. For once, you will appreciate these people."

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TRT
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Re: ...by our most thick-fingered security inspector.

"By Abu Hamza who has come back to carry out his community service sentence."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ...by our most thick-fingered security inspector.

You, Sir, are a thoroughly evil and enjoyable man :).

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Play "chicken"

Aircraft hit birds all the time. Occasionally - very occasionally - it is with tragic results. But the risk is real enough that major airports go to some lengths to keep the larger birds away. We also know that engine manufacturers test the ability of their products to withstand bird strikes,

They do this by firing (dead) chickens at the engines, very, very fast. Isn't it time that someone did some work into quantifying the effect of a drone-strike on an aircraft engiine?

Until that research is carried out, we have no information either on the effect that such a collision would have (drones being made of much harder materials than birds) or what measures could be taken to mitigate the effects. Or even to assist with post-crash forensics to find or discount the signs of a drone collision.

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TRT
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Re: Play "chicken"

Exactly It's rule something or other... will it blend? Chickens, yes. Drones?

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Re: Play "chicken"

Thankfully, drones are (still) exceedingly rare to fly in flocks, and passenger aircraft that can't land with one engine out (worst case) are even rarer.

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Re: Play "chicken"

I'd heard they use frozen chickens (or turkeys) for birdstrike tests. If a plane can withstand that, I can't see a quadcopter causing it much trouble.

Still, flying a drone around an airport is monumentally stupid.

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Re: Play "chicken"

They don't freeze them it's a myth, there would probably be naff all working left of a engine if they did.

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Re: Play "chicken"

Isn't it time that someone did some work into ... the effect of a drone-strike ...?

Aalborg University is on the case:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160413084310.htm

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Re: Play "chicken"

Aircraft hit birds all the time. Occasionally - very occasionally - it is with tragic results.

If you happen to be a bird then you can change "occasionally" to "usually".

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Responsible model flyers have insurance, and obey rules and bylaws, but even money says this won’t be the case, it will be someone who’s bought a drone cheap, and thinks of it as a toy. It’s already an offense under the Air Navigation Orders to endanger a plane in flight, but whoever was flying this won’t care anymore than the fact it’s generally a really dumb thing to do anyway, but like dazing pilots with lasers there’s an element of the population that think it’s a “cool “ thing to do.

The flying RC model hobby will get the blame, for an action taken by a very small idiotic minority of the population. And Yes as a RC flyer if its shown this was a deliberate act I hope they throw the book at the perpetrator, as no doubt knee jerk reactions will affect me even though I fly way out in the countryside.

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Put the lasers on the drones, for bonus evil!

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WTF?

The average drone ...

looks more like this: http://goo.gl/Axq5Ku (Aliexpress link), runs without explosive fuels and is not a hardened steel construction. The statement "made of sturdier stuff, can carry liquid fuels and have rapidly-rotating rotors that could conceivably damage a plane" therefore sounds a bit of hyperbole. Still, those drone operators should follow the rules just like the model plane operators did in the past.

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TJ1
Joke

Kepp those A320s out of our airspace!

How dare those airlines fly their large heavy dangerous airplanes into our small, light, perfectly 'armless remote controlled kids toys - won't somebody think of the children!?

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One guy

The number of 'incidents' near Heathrow make me think that there is only one person responsible of the majority of these drone strikes / near-misses. Hopefully now his drone is destroyed he'll move on to other forms of recreation, like train dodging instead.

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Re: One guy

He's still got his laser pointer though!

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Paris Hilton

Firefly

I remember an episode of Firefly (Train Job) were Mal kicked a bad guy through Serenity's engine, and it didn't damage the blade one jot.

Surely this proves that a drone wouldn't damage an aeroplane engine!

Paris, because, well, just because!

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Re: Firefly

And of course no-one would ever think of putting 8 oz. of RDX/aluminuim powder on a drone.

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Softly softly catch the monkey

Nabbing these idiots is usually just a question of patience. By and large they can't resist posting their efforts on the internet... at least in cases where the drone isn't totaled.

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Childcatcher

Flying IED

Just what we need; terrorists floating 'air mines' in Britain's flight paths.

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Pint

"1.87 million years"

If there's so much as a scratch in the paint, then the calculations previously reported were wrong.

"Statistically just one airplane will be damaged every 1.87 million years, says study"

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/03/16/faa_exaggerates_drone_strikes_against_aircraft/

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Detection would be a good start

Clearly, in addition to serious jail time for anyone doing this (what's the betting that even if caught they'll get a short suspended sentence) we clearly need better schemes for detecting drones in prohibited areas. And yes, this sort of thing is in my line of work.

Idea 1) Already mentioned by others is the idea of triangulating the locations of transmitters. For locating the drone (and thus warning pilots) this is probably not too difficult. Technology like VERA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VERA_passive_sensor) which relies on time difference of arrival could do this easily. A much simpler system than VERA would work fine since the range needed is limited and only a few frequencies need to be covered. Detecting the ground transmitters is a bit more challenging since the RF path is more obscured and of course you will get a lot of false positives but I thnk that a system, perhaps installed on current mobile phone masts would be possible. Of course, in both cases radio silence could be adopted with the drone operating automatically, but people who do this are by definition morons and therefore usually not clever enough to work that out.

Idea 2) Dedicated radar - Presumably, these drones are not currently showing up on airfield radars because (a) their radar cross section is too small and (b) their speed is too low and therefore the radar's Doppler filter removes them as clutter. But, in my professional opinion a suitable radar could be invented. It only needs to search a limited amount of space where aircraft are taking off and landing and it could use the no doubt very distinctive Doppler shift from the props as a discriminant so it doesn't keep detecting birds (like the counter helicopter mode on some military radars),

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