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 …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Kudos to the idiot responsible

    Keep this kind of thing up and, sooner or later, a plane will go down in flames. I hope the Police will find him and the judge will make an example of him. This kind of stupidity must stop.

    In related matters, it's curious how a journalist coming back from talking with Snowden was detained (however long) under terrorist laws, but in this case nobody is even mentioning the term when lives were clearly at risk.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

      The idiot or idiots responsible should be lashed to the tailpipe of a Tornado or a Typhoon and re-heat engaged.

      If an aircraft (no matter what size) is downed by one of these then all drones will be made illegal the next day. Only professional drone operators will be allowed to use them.

      Personally, I can't wait for the day.

      Meanwhile over in the US, some states have made shooting down a drone a criminal offense no matter what the drone is doing. This includes snooping on what is going on inside your home.

      The NSA/FBI will be applauding this move. Now they can snoop on their suspects as much as they like always hoping that their snoop drone (or drones) get downed by the suspect and that gives them the perfect excuse to cuff the person.

      I predict that all the nice juicy stuff will soon go underground (literally) just to avoid drone snooping.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        There is no such thing as "professional drone operator", at least not in the UK. There is a notion of "insured pilot", and "sport pilot" and also "commercial pilot", but not "professional". I do not quite see a reason why it would be useful anyway - you can have recreational pilots of small airplanes (obliged to be licensed and insured) which are way more dangerous than any (non-military) drone will ever be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          The people who fly drones for a living might disagree with you.

          Here is a link to one such company

          http://www.sky-futures.com/

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          Usually, below a "commercial pilot" license (or equivalent) you can't fly being paid for your work (which makes it the start of a "professional" pilot career).

          While usually with licenses below "private pilot" (or equivalent) you have many restrictions - passenger number, and so on - including when and where you can fly.

          Airspace nearby controlled airports has specific classifications and thus specific rules to fly within (including being in radio contact with the air traffic control), thereby any licensed pilot is usually far less dangerous than any wannabe drone operator without any idea of flying into controlled airspace.

        3. Eponymous Cowherd

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          There certainly are "professional drone operators" in the UK, and the rules they operate under are significantly stricter than for those who fly drones as a hobby.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            The rules are the same whether flying a drone as a hobby or otherwise.

        4. Carey42

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          The CAA run drone operators courses. I think it's 3 days and costs around £1000. I suspect you would have to have this certification before any insurance company would take you on.

      2. Nifty

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Isn't registration of all drones compulsory in the US already? So basically they are all meant to be 'chipped' to identify the operator, otherwise it's illegal to fly. Or am I thinking of another country?

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          No it's not. If this keeps up they will make all drones be registered and carry a transponder.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        @"The idiot or idiots responsible should be lashed to the tailpipe of a Tornado or a Typhoon and re-heat engaged."

        Why? Why would you kill someone for doing something that resulted in no detectable damage to an aircraft? That's just hyperbole.

        @"Meanwhile over in the US, some states have made shooting down a drone a criminal offense no matter what the drone is doing. This includes snooping on what is going on inside your home."

        Bullets crash to the ground and kill people, being so small and design to penetrate skin and kill. So of course you're not allowed to shoot down a drone. It would cause all these metal killer projectiles to come raining down!

        And the reason? Privacy invasion?

        Can you kill a person with a camera in the street because you think he might be photographing you inside your own house? But his camera has a zoom lens and the drones doesn't. If he was in a microlight would you be allowed to shoot him down then?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          @"The idiot or idiots responsible should be lashed to the tailpipe of a Tornado or a Typhoon and re-heat engaged."

          Why? Why would you kill someone for doing something that resulted in no detectable damage to an aircraft? That's just hyperbole.

          I don't think you know what hyperbole means. However, heat has always been an acceptable method of sterilisation, in this case applied to the part of the gene pool we don't want to reproduce much.

          @"Meanwhile over in the US, some states have made shooting down a drone a criminal offense no matter what the drone is doing. This includes snooping on what is going on inside your home."

          Bullets crash to the ground and kill people, being so small and design to penetrate skin and kill. So of course you're not allowed to shoot down a drone. It would cause all these metal killer projectiles to come raining down!

          For everything else, there is buckshot. Let's start with cause and effect, though - I AM indeed entitled to my privacy and so are my kids, so if some jerk decides that his right to play with toys of questionable benefit (because professionals don't do such a thing) overrides my family's right to privacy he's booking either the toy or himself a date with a destructive force, which will, of course, happen "entirely by accident". It's exactly this stupid, idiotic and entirely unjustified sense of entitlement that enables these f*ckwits to endanger others.

          "Oooh, look, nothing happened so it's OK to do it again" - that will be heard just until a plane goes down in flames. Jet engines may look big and massive, but they are precision balanced machines that are not designed as toy mulchers, and you damage them on the absolute most critical part of the journey: the landing. So, I'll also promise any entity flying a drone near an airport a quick call to the local police, and I'll be happy to film it and dox the fool online as well.

          Can you kill a person with a camera in the street because you think he might be photographing you inside your own house? But his camera has a zoom lens and the drones doesn't. If he was in a microlight would you be allowed to shoot him down then?

          In my house I can draw the curtains, and I can set up a hedge (which is one of the many justified reasons why Google Streetview got into trouble in countries with respect for privacy, they were looking over the fence), and it's going to be rather visible who is trying to sneak a peek. I can't draw curtains on the space above my house, it's not always possible to identify who controls the drone but I refuse to keep my kids inside because some pervert thinks he has to pay no attention to my family's right to privacy.

          BTW, there are drones with zoom lenses - it simply depends what you fit and how you protect it against vibration.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            "

            For everything else, there is buckshot. Let's start with cause and effect, though - I AM indeed entitled to my privacy and so are my kids, so if some jerk decides that his right to play with toys of questionable benefit (because professionals don't do such a thing) overrides my family's right to privacy he's booking either the toy or himself a date with a destructive force, which will, of course, happen "entirely by accident". It's exactly this stupid, idiotic and entirely unjustified sense of entitlement that enables these f*ckwits to endanger others.

            "

            Firstly, the biggest concern about shooting down drones (apart from destruction of property) is not where the spent bullet might land, but where the damaged drone might land. Imagine that you shoot down a drone in order to protect your "privacy", and that drone crashes into the windscreen of a car, causing a fatal accident. Who would be held to blame, do you suppose?

            Secondly, there is no legal "right to privacy" except in certain very specific cases. Do you also feel that you have the right to shoot down a telephone linesman working at the top of a pole that overlooks your garden? Or strafe the top deck of the bus driving past your house? Or bring down the hot-air balloon drifting overhead?

            If you don't like the idea that it is perfectly possible for people to look into your garden, maybe you shouldn't do anything in your garden that you would not like other people to see. Not that it's likely that the camera of the average hobbyist drone would capture anything all that clearly, but the birdwatcher who has climbed a tree with a pair of binoculars might.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

              Firstly, the biggest concern about shooting down drones (apart from destruction of property) is not where the spent bullet might land, but where the damaged drone might land. Imagine that you shoot down a drone in order to protect your "privacy", and that drone crashes into the windscreen of a car, causing a fatal accident. Who would be held to blame, do you suppose?

              That would be me, but I'm surrounded by farmland and I like clay pigeon shooting which means that I have a reasonably good aim, and have no worries about where the pieces land. Shame that clay pigeons are hard to aim - that would be the sort of "unfortunate accident" I'd love to automate :)

              Secondly, there is no legal "right to privacy" except in certain very specific cases.

              Actually, there is. There is no implicit definition in UK law other than their acceptance (and now attempted withdrawal from) the UDHR, but I can comfortably take you to court for invasion of privacy. The fact that physical privacy is mostly defined by who has the better lawyer does not mean it doesn't exist. By way of example, Sienna Miller has yet to lose a single case in this matter.

              Do you also feel that you have the right to shoot down a telephone linesman working at the top of a pole that overlooks your garden? Or strafe the top deck of the bus driving past your house? Or bring down the hot-air balloon drifting overhead?

              None of your examples set out to specifically invade my personal sphere, whereas a drone operator will have explicitly directed the drone to my property. Not a good argument either.

              If you don't like the idea that it is perfectly possible for people to look into your garden, maybe you shouldn't do anything in your garden that you would not like other people to see.

              Ah, the old "you should not have anything to hide argument" - do you by any chance work for the government? Here's a counter: my children are entitled to be safe from prying eyes as well, so if you try to film them without my permission when they are in the safety of my property you *will* get to deal with security who will hold you until the police arrives (and they have some experience in this by now). You'll have a fun time explaining why out of all the places your drone could be it just happened to be above my property.

              Not that it's likely that the camera of the average hobbyist drone would capture anything all that clearly, but the birdwatcher who has climbed a tree with a pair of binoculars might.

              As above - when the intent is there I *will* come after you. I'm done hiding from people who want to invade my privacy, because hiding doesn't correct the issue. I intend to make invading my privacy so risky and resulting in so much crap descending on the invader that only the thoroughly stupid would even consider it, and I'll help others to do the same. Enough is enough. My home is my castle and all that - my kids should have at least one place in the world where they can just be themselves without having to worry about idiots stalking them in whatever way comes in handy.

              Maybe it's worth widening your perspective to include the social aspects and consequences of what you're defending. I have no problem at all with drone operators using their toys sensibly and responsibly and I have seen some truly beautiful work (especially in extreme sports), but the Heathrow incident is indicative of the sort of idiocy that we can all do without.

              You can't tell me that you will fly into someone's garden by accident. If you do so, you should not try to hide behind "it's just a hobby" and "privacy doesn't exist" - have at least the balls to admit that at that point you are quite simply an electronic stalker.

      4. Eponymous Cowherd
        Facepalm

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Really? So some twatspanner behaves like a complete smeghead and everyone else's enjoyment suffers?

        By your reasoning, the next time some idiot gets done for drink-driving we can expect a ban on all cars? Or, possibly a ban on all alcohol, 'cos that worked rather well the last time it was tried.....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          Really? So some twatspanner behaves like a complete smeghead and everyone else's enjoyment suffers?

          Upvote for enriching my vocabulary with "twatspanner" :)

        2. David Webb

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          @Eponymous Cowherd

          By your reasoning, the next time some idiot gets done for drink-driving we can expect a ban on all cars? Or, possibly a ban on all alcohol

          No, the logic there would be, Drinking and Driving at the same time is a major cause of accidents, rather than banning Drinking or Driving they simply ban Drink Driving.

          In this case flying a drone near an airport may cause a fatal air accident involving a couple of hundred people so it's illegal to fly a drone in that sort of airspace, we already have the laws in place the same as we have the laws in place for drunk driving. However, with drink driving a copper can pull you over and test you to see if you're over the limit, a drone on the other hand, if it hits a plane the operator can just go "oh shit" and never be found (unless he's stupid enough to post what he did on facebook).

          This begs the question, not of "what the hell do we do once it's brought a plane down?" but of "how do we prevent this in the first place, to the best of our abilities". If you can work out a method to take control of a drone which enters restricted airspace, forcing the drone to land in an area where PC Plod can get hold of it and then track down the owner, well, you'll find you have a huge customer base of airports around the world willing to purchase it (as well as prisons and other areas where they don't want drones), so figure it out, go start a kickstarter and become a really rich person.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          actually they are saying now that passengers didn't hear anything, there is no sign of a collision at all. The pilot may have been entirely mistaken and there was not even a collision, let alone any drone involved!

      5. heyrick Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        "Personally, I can't wait for the day."

        As a person who enjoys flying a little drone out in the country away from anything of importance (and with a maximum range of around 70m before the radio poops out), screw you and screw the dumbasses who think it is funny to buzz airliners...

        Don't assume an asshole represents everybody.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

      Fear-monger much?

      They didn't even find any damage, they're not even sure it was a drone and not a bird. We know it wasn't a Phantom because the software stops you flying within 5km of an airport.

      Britain never made drones, it will never do anything as long as people like you try to spread panic about everything new. How long before one of you lot prevent Britain getting involved in self driving cars? Spread a little panic about them.... how long before a self driving car crashed into a school, think of the children!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Fear-monger much?

        They didn't even find any damage, they're not even sure it was a drone and not a bird. We know it wasn't a Phantom because the software stops you flying within 5km of an airport.

        I prefer to trust the official report made by people qualified to know the difference, and I think we can trust a pilot to know the difference too. He/she is not going to report something like that if it hadn't happened because it means a lot of extra hassle and paperwork.

        By the way, are you thus arguing that idiots like this should first actually DOWN a plane before this is taken seriously? Really?

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          "...I think we can trust a pilot to know the difference too."

          I presume, then, you believe all the UFO reports made by pilots?

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            Pilots do report *unidentified* flying object without implying what they are. If they saw something strange, they report it.

            Then if there are tinfoil hat wearers who believe those are alien ships or flying unicorns it's a different matter.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Ol'Peculier
              Happy

              Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

              They do, I've flown on flights where the IFE has had multiple cameras, one at the front, one underneath looking straight down and one on the tail fin. Ethiad I think.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            I presume, then, you believe all the UFO reports made by pilots?

            Definitely, given that UFO simply means "Unidentified Flying Object".

            "Unidentified Alien Object" is a different TLA..

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              The weather balloon that launched a thousand saucers.

              Definitely, given that UFO simply means "Unidentified Flying Object".

              "Unidentified Alien Object" is a different TLA..

              If you believe UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object then you're putting words into my mouth by assuming I'm using it to mean something different. And the fact that you assume I mean "UAO" probably means UFO really means UAO, even to you. And, opening up the OED on my desk, I find UFO defined as "a mysterious object seen in the sky for which it is claimed no orthodox scientific explanation can be found, popularly said to be a vehicle carrying extraterrestrial." No other definition is given. And it's not defined as an acronym, although it notes that was the origin of the word. (I note that a UAO would qualify for your definition of a UFO provided it was airborne.)

              By and large, I tend to be generous to bug reports: the user saw something. But a user's analysis can often be suspect; even pilots can be confused about unexpected events. Google returned a page of pilot reports: the top one being a mile wide object seen over Guernsey. I believe the pilots saw something; I will refrain from believing any analysis they provide.

              And, as to this incident, if the drone is on the ground then it's cut and dried. And, if I not, I will still believe the pilot hit something. It may even have been a drone. But I'm not going to give him magical authority by virtue of being a pilot -- unless this pilot has experience of hitting drones.

          4. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            I presume, then, you believe all the UFO reports made by pilots?

            Kindly look up the meaning of "unidentified".

            "I saw something in the air, but was unable to identify what it was". It's only the crackpot brigade that associates "unidentified".with "supernatural".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          Given that there have been numerous 'sightings' of drones in situations at altitudes and speeds which are not physically possible I think a paranoid pilot is the least trustworthy source. The number of sightings of birds near heathrow has 'coincidentedly' dropped as the number of drone sightings increased. The fact is they are currently calling anything they didn't quite see a drone.

          Meanwhile the police and several other companies are using drones within the airport grounds perfectly safely without nearby planes spontaneously exploding.

          You should dial back the paranoia because people are already taking this seriously and it is an extremely low risk of happening.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Fear-monger much?

        They didn't even find any damage, they're not even sure it was a drone and not a bird. We know it wasn't a Phantom because the software stops you flying within 5km of an airport.

        Let me give you "fear monger": the first idiot to down a plane with a drone will have them classified as a terrorist device, because it is indeed the simplest way to down a plane using materials you can simply buy in any toy shop, which in this specific case would have resulted in a runway-length smear made of 132 people. I also suspect that in that case it would no longer matter which brand it was.

        Is that what you want, or shall we endeavour to get idiots like this locked up as fast as we find them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          Having tried to land a drone in the centre of a field but ending up in a hedge 200 yards away it won't be so easy for a terrorist to deliberately fly a drone into a jet engine.

          If it does happen it will be an acident.

          1. Vic

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            Having tried to land a drone in the centre of a field but ending up in a hedge 200 yards away it won't be so easy for a terrorist to deliberately fly a drone into a jet engine.

            Well, if the drone has sufficient power, getting to an aircraft on approach won't be that difficult - the flightpath is well known, and there will be little deviation as they're all coming in on auto anyway.

            For a little more accuracy, a commercial airliner will be shouting its position, direction and speed over ADS-B. It would be a trivial matter to compute an intercept course. I suspect someone would need to aim at the engine manually, but that won't be so difficult; a jet engine will suck in anything that gets near the front. I've no idea whether a drone going through the bypass would destroy the engine, but a determined terrorist could probably do the damage with a small explosive charge and a motorcycle chain.

            There's a bunch of planning - and training - to make this feasible, but writing off the possibility just because it's difficult is probably a touch premature...

            Vic.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

              "There's a bunch of planning - and training - to make this feasible, but writing off the possibility just because it's difficult is probably a touch premature..."

              Losing an engine on approach. Something that's trained for - because it's happened occasionally.

              Do you really think it would be possible for a fleet of drones to take out two or more engines on the same aircraft? In the entire history of aviation the number of incidents where a flock of birds have managed the feat can be counted on one hand with a few fingers left over - and the most famous one involved a flock of canada geese - which for the most part are both larger and more solid than any drone (If you've ever been chased by a goose you'll know what I mean about size, ditto if you've had to carry a newly dead one.)

              The comment about bird sightings around Heathrow is germane. I've seen cranes taking off from the stream adjacent to the T4 access road on a number of occasions and those things are BIG but also surprisingly hard to see once airborne. On at least half the times I've watched them, the birds have turned and flown into the aerodrome, not away from it. Presumably they wanted to get to the Other Side.

              1. Vic

                Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

                Do you really think it would be possible for a fleet of drones to take out two or more engines on the same aircraft?

                Yes.

                Like I said, it's going to take some planning.

                But if you really wanted to take out an aeroplane, you'd ignore the engines - a jet on approach should remain above the glide slope, so even an engines-off landing is viable, if a little difficult. The vertical stabiliser is probably the most vulnerable target, but rather difficult to break off. But like I said - chains[1] are the weapon of choice. That's the business end of the air-to-air missiles I've worked on[2].

                Vic.

                [1] Not quite bike chains - they tend to be a bit spikier so they pull chunks outof the target. But you could readily make something like that from a bike chain...

                [2] I have little experience of anything manufactured past 1970[3]. But the difference in weaponry between then and now is mostly in the targetting and delivery, not the bit that goes bang

                [3] Oooh - I've just discovered that Firestreak was still operational until 1988. The ones I've worked on are rather earlier than that :-)

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          " the first idiot to down a plane with a drone will have them classified as a terrorist device, because it is indeed the simplest way to down a plane using materials you can simply buy in any toy shop"

          The kind of drones you can buy in a toy shop won't bring down an aircraft of any size.

          Ones large enough to do so are big enough to be spotted some distance off AND expensive enough that their operators are careful not to do silly things with them.

          Model aircraft (and kites) don't belong near an active airport, or above 200 feet without clearance. Sellers and makers need to take on greater responsibility for their products, including limiting the range and altitude of the stuff most likely to sell to children and bored idiots.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

            The kind of drones you can buy in a toy shop won't bring down an aircraft of any size.

            Never say never, but there's another argument. Even if you can still land with one engine down, you are causing extra risk. Losing the engine requires a correction, which at the wrong moment in time can indeed properly screw things over, training or not.

            Or do you you now drive really close to other cars because your car has ABS and airbags?

            You do NOT have the right to endanger others. Full stop.

      3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Britain never made drones?

        Soooo whats the DH.82 Queen bee then if not a drone? (and one of the earliest ones at that which gave us the name of drone).

        Now if one of them hit an aircraft there would be a hell of a mess

      4. macjules Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        Agree on some, disagree on the rest. BAE Systems, for one, is a drone manufacture par excellence - Taranis for example. Malloy Aeronautics is another (Drone 3, bit pricey though at £1500).

        I agree that all of this kerfuffle neatly co-incides with 'we must legislate to protect citizens against [insert mot du jour here]', whether it be drones, self driving cars or driverless trains.

      5. Vic

        Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

        We know it wasn't a Phantom because the software stops you flying within 5km of an airport.

        5km will just about keep you out of the ATZ surrounding a small airfield, but isn't even close to covering the controlled airspace around the larger airports in the country.

        Vic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kudos to the idiot responsible

          Hasn't anyone hacked the limit? I've no intention of knocking any planes out of the sky, and I live nowhere near Heathrow, but if there was a hacked firmware I'd try it out for shits and giggles.

  2. werdsmith Silver badge

    I notice that a 60,000KG jet designed to withstand large hailstones took a 1KG object in its stride.

    These devices that provide an excellent stable platform allowing folk to get some wonderful images when used properly are now falling victim to the "always one idiot" problem where 99.9% of legitimate use is undermined by the moronic minority.

    The problem seems to be that all these 6 axis gyro stabilised tech with GPS return-to-home and autonomous control makes them easy to fly with minimal practice. Radio Controlled aircraft that have been around for years self-regulate because inexperienced flyers destroy a few (usually within seconds) as part of the learning process thus people don't generally get very far without help from wiser folk.

    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.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      "always one idiot"

      More than one. Much more than one.

      These devices that provide an excellent stable platform allowing folk to get some wonderful images. That is perfectly fine use case. Out. There. In the country side - wildlife photography. 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. ALL drone operators not carrying such signs and using it anywhere where it can even theoretically observe a person without that person granting prior consent are breaking the law.

      IMHO, that law should grow some extra teeth and get criminal penalties in the 5 year range attached to it including open season for taking down any drone and immediately destroying it if found non-compliant. That should be enough to deal with the problem.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        "always one" is not meant to be literal.

        These ico laws of which you speak, are they parochial or do they apply globally.

        Personally I don't give a shit if someone films with a quadcopter mounted camera. They can just as well point a handheld video camera at me, or follow my car while using a dash-cam. They can also look at me using their eyes. All of those methods can be done surreptitiously, but a quad-copter generally sticks out like a sore thumb and draws attention to itself by looking very weird and sounding like a giant swarm of killer bees so is actually a bit crap at covert surveillance.

        I draw the line at using them to hurt people though. That's very naughty.

      2. 's water music Silver badge

        rant

        Have you read the code? It is much more sensible than that. It is also non-statutory although it is intended to aid with statutory DPA compliance.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: rant

          Have you read the code?

          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.

          That is exactly why I am saying that the law should grow some teeth - that would help not just with the drones, but with "one nation under CCTV" too so we do not have crazy excesses like the Ring of Steel around Royston.

          1. DaLo

            @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.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "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.

      3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        "... that should be enough" or perhaps not. You cannot learn owner's identity from a drone, since they do not require registration. If you cannot do that, the owner is almost guaranteed to remain "persons unknown" and no penalties will be applied - meaning the law will never grow teeth.

        Well, actually flying any object (drone or RC model) does require registration of a kind, more specifically an insurance must be taken by the pilot before flying over anything other than pilot's own private land (and in safe distance from people, buildings and vehicles). The details of this insurance could be theoretically used to identify the pilot.

        One possibility to improve the matters is to change the radio protocols used for controlling both drones and RC models. These protocols are technically low-power broadcast over 2.4Ghz spectrum from pilot's radio transmitter, employing some kind of encoding (DMSS for JR, DSMX for Spektrum, FASST for Futaba) and they can be extended by their vendors, if required by law. A transmitter cannot be legally sold in a country, if it does not fulfill local requirements meaning that if a law is enacted, the vendors will have no choice but implement it. Example protocol change would be embedding (that is, technically broadcasting) insurance code of the pilot (preferably a short number or even short crypto hash, which can be looked up in a registry of some kind) alongside with any commands and also in a connection heartbeat, in an universal format which can be captured by anyone interested in identifying the pilot. Also, a drone (or RC model) should be required to store this code in a non-volatile memory which can be recovered after a crash - not such a difficult thing to implement, since they often store telemetrics already. Finally, a drone (or RC model) receiver could be required to implement an "emergency kill" command which might be issued by any legal entity in a close physical proximity to the drone and would simply shut it down (yes, causing it either drop a significant part of the altitude or crash itself - preferable alternative to having it crash an aircraft on approach to landing). Such a command would be also stored in non-volatile memory, with the code sufficient to identify "interfering" party, which would be useful for settling disputes.

        This is of course quite an intrusive change, but I prefer this rather than being looked at as a potential criminal just because I like flying things remotely (in a safe manner and while holding necessary insurance).

        1. LDS Silver badge

          A generic kill command will turn into a generic dangerous backdoor. But I agree that requiring drones to "squawk" their registration code could be useful, but I'm afraid people will find ways to stop it. Yet it will help to tell when there is a legitimate operator and a rogue one.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          You can go on the web and find project instructions to build a quadcopter, it's not even very difficult.

          Regulation of retail sales of transmitters and aircraft won't help a great deal.

          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. Traffic can be directed away.

          Then equipment should triangulate, locate the offender after which the pdf can be hurled at them for endangering aircraft.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            A similar method for pulse encoding a serial number in a laser pen? Some arsehole was shining one into the eyes of car, bus and lorry drivers at the top of a steep hill near me a couple of weekends ago. Set my migraine off the wanker. Should be classed as an assault.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "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)

          2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            "equipment should triangulate, locate the offender", well that's the hard part. Unless you have receiving equipment already in place to perform the triangulation, you are not going to be able to do this on time. The offender only needs split of a second to turn the radio off and walk away. On the other hand, no one will sell you a radio transmitter (for controlling a drone or RC model) if it does not satisfy legal requirements.

            1. JohnMurray

              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/

              1. Anonymous Coward
                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 :)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              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).

              1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

                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.

          3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            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.

            1. JohnMurray

              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.

          4. Vic

            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...

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "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.

              1. Vic

                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.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          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)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          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!

          1. Ivan Headache

            uninsured birds?

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

            Parts of the bird tend to stick.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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*

              1. TRT Silver badge

                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..."

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @TRT

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

              2. Anonymous Coward
                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.

                1. 404 Silver badge

                  Re: uninsured birds?

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

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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..

      4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        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.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      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.

  3. LDS Silver badge

    "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.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      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."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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."

        1. TRT Silver badge

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

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

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

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

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    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.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Play "chicken"

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

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      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.

    3. Lamont Cranston

      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.

      1. Triggerfish

        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.

    4. David Pollard

      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

    5. werdsmith Silver badge

      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".

  5. Gavin Chester

    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.

    1. Anonymous C0ward

      Put the lasers on the drones, for bonus evil!

  6. Schultz
    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.

  7. 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!?

  8. applebyJedi

    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.

    1. DaLo

      Re: One guy

      He's still got his laser pointer though!

  9. applebyJedi
    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!

    1. R Callan

      Re: Firefly

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

  10. octot#orp

    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.

  11. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Flying IED

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

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    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/

  13. Richard Simpson

    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),

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Detection would be a good start

      RS "... a suitable radar could be invented."

      Invented isn't quite the right word.

      1. Richard Simpson

        Re: Detection would be a good start

        Agreed. I should of course have written "developed".

        The thing with writing long comments at work is that time for reflection and review is rather limited!

    2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Detection would be a good start

      I have trouble with this triangulation. You have to remember, we are talking about 2.4Ghz band which 1) does not have large range 2) is heavily polluted 3) propagates very poorly through obstacles 4) reflects from obstacles, creating further interference. In practice, you would need huge number of stations and large processing capacity to actually perform triangulation, and then you are left with huge privacy implications, since you have in your hand (very expensive) equipment capable of tracking every mobile phone or other bluetooth transmitter around the airport.

      And then, since actually helicopters and helipads are also in danger of drone collisions as well, powers that be might reasonably request similar "triangulation capacity" over whole cities because that's where helicopters are flying and landing. If you think about privacy implications (this is 2.4Ghz band we are talking!), I am sure you will agree this is not so bright idea.

      1. Richard Simpson

        Re: Detection would be a good start

        Firstly, most modern systems don't use triangulation, but time difference of arrival, as I think I mentioned.

        I agree that you may need quite a few stations to track signals on the ground depending on how large an area you want to cover, but for tracking the actual drones the problem is a lot easier since we are only interested in the skies on the approach and departure flight path. Clearly, we can construct antennas that point in that direction and ignore most of the interfering signals that don't interest us.

        I am not convinced by your interference argument. Consider the drone. It is clearly flying at a reasonable altitude in order to strike an approaching aircraft. If it can distinguish its own control transmitter from the hundreds of other 2.4GHz sources visible from the air then so, presumably, can our tracking system.

        I don't believe that there are any mobile phone frequency bands around 2.4GHz and your complaint seems to be based on the rather quaint idea that mobile phone locations aren't already tracked. As for Bluetooth, this does sound like it would be too low power to be usefully tracked.

        So, in summary I don't agree that this is not a bright idea.

        In related news, a colleague has pointed out to me the following system which seems to take the special to purpose radar approach: http://www.blighter.com/products/blighter-auds-anti-uav-defence-system.html

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Detection would be a good start

          It is highly doubtful that anyone would fly a drone high enough to be of concern unless they were using FPV (i.e. a video feed back to the operator). There are only a few frequency bands used by model video transmitters, and the transmission is distinctive enough to be easily detected (and triangulated) by automated equipment. As soon as a drone popped up above the horizon of an airport, it could therefore be detected and it's position & flightpath determined and also its video image monitored. In fact it is likely that it could be tracked when it was flown back to its operator and may even provide a video image of that operator when it lands.

          1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            Re: Detection would be a good start

            It is highly doubtful that anyone would fly a drone high enough to be of concern unless they were using FPV

            that's exactly what they are doing. However since the signal is omnidirectional, and its strength falls pretty quickly with distance. But I see what you are suggesting here: perhaps sensitive enough antenna would be able to pick the video feed from some distance. The trouble is that if that distance is many times larger than the distance between the pilot and the drone, the signal will be very week.

    3. Vic

      Re: Detection would be a good start

      But, in my professional opinion a suitable radar could be invented

      Boscombe Down has a radar called "Tanzier". They reckon it can spot a 20p piece anywhere on the runway.

      I don't think it's cheap, though; they were telling us that if Paris had bought one, the Concorde crash would not have happened...

      Vic.

  14. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    next year's headline: swarm of drones shuts down major airport?

    1. grumpyoldeyore

      Flock of Drones

      Already happened..

      http://www.avherald.com/h?article=49642a2e&opt=0

  15. MassiveBob

    "drone hitting a plane" or "plane hitting a drone"

    British Airways says the pilot of an A320 landing at Heathrow on Sunday reported hitting something during the landing approach.

    Is it just me or does "plane hitting a drone" sound more accurate??

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "drone hitting a plane" or "plane hitting a drone"

      "Drone being in the way of a plane, with unsurprising results"

  16. Sir Alien

    How do you know what you hit...

    Firstly, I am not saying this is false and it may well have been a drone. Thing that pisses me off is that the moment something goes wrong, pilots/news/whatever seem to blame the first most popular thing they can think of.

    1. Most drones of reasonable size will have a number of metal components. If this were a drone strike of that kind, would be plane not have suffered considerable damage and needed repairs prior to resuming flights.

    2. Most large airliners do approximately 150mph to 200mph on landing. When an object is approaching you at that speed, can you clearly identify it as a drone. Hell, it could have been a bird hitting the plane.

    I certainly hope we don't get more "scaremongering drone laws" since existing laws do sufficiently cover drone/model aircraft use already. It also covers the fact the no model aircraft are allowed near an airport anyway.

    So if this was really a drone strike, get the device, dust for prints as I am sure the owner must have handled it some how, arrest the bastard and put him/her behind bars.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terrorists will use drones

    Imagine a drone laden with explosives, taking a aeroplane down on the Heathrow approach path over populated parts of London... doesn't bear thinking about.

    The authorities need to clamp down, perhaps strict licensing or better still make drones illegal to use outside of special supervised places - along the lines of controls that apply to gun ownership.

    Plus harsh prison sentences for manufacturers/distributors/importers who flout the rules.

    1. Sir Alien
      Facepalm

      Re: Terrorists will use drones

      With your logic it seems that all model aircraft should simply be banned then.

      Drones, Model planes, Model helicopters can all carry some sort of explosive so they should all be banned. While we are at it, why not ban cars too. It was shown in Israel that terrorists used cars to ram bus stops and killing innocent people. In Iraq, cars were used as bomb transport to kill innocent people (just like your hypothesis on drones) so we should most definitely ban cars.

      No, we should not be banning drones. Licensing won't help either because quite simply, if this were a drone they are already ignoring the rules and laws. Implementing new rules and laws won't help as these will simply be ignored by a "potential" terrorist as well. Terrorists by definition, DO NOT obey the law.

      Some people should think before spouting things like this.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Terrorists will use drones

        > Drones, Model planes, Model helicopters can all carry some sort of explosive so they should all be banned.

        You forgot kites, balloons and chinese lanterns (or are they balloons?).

        I plan to attach a fishing line to my drone and claim it is a kite if I'm arrested!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Terrorists will use drones

          Why complicate things with explosives?

          Just get a drone with a steel cable or net attached, or perhaps two drones with a cable or net between them.

          Pop up in-front of the aircraft on final approach, and let the cable/net foul an engine, or a control surface, and Kaboom! :-/

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Terrorists will use drones

        You forgot to add doors to the list of things that absolutely need to be banned - after all, while domestic accidents do exist, the overwhelming majority of all that dangerous stuff that can happen to you lies on the other side of a door! Imagine how much safer we all would be and how many lives could be saved if nobody would ever leave their home!

      3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Terrorists will use drones

        @Sir Alien,

        Don't forget baby carriages! I always find myself having to dive behind trees and concrete walls when some wannabe terrorist wheels one of those bomb containers by.

        What would happen if one of these went off in a preschool!?? Won't somebody think of the children!!??

      4. Alistair Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Terrorists will use drones

        "Drones, Model planes, Model helicopters can all carry some sort of explosive so they should all be banned. While we are at it, why not ban cars too"

        Kiddies Helium balloons!!!! OMG!!! they can LIFT things like terrist 'splosive boom boom bombs!!!

        BAN BALLOOOONs!

        <just in case, some might *not* get it>

        EDIT

        < should have read the rest of the thread - 2+2=5 beat me to it>

    2. batfink

      Re: Terrorists will use drones

      Oh FFS. Let's ban everything "Because Terrorism". Imagine a car laden with explosives - let's ban cars! Imagine a train laden with explosives coming into Kings X - let's ban trains! Imagine a balloon laden with explosives - let's ban balloons!

      Get a grip.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Terrorists will use drones

      "

      Imagine a drone laden with explosives, taking a aeroplane down on the Heathrow approach path over populated parts of London... doesn't bear thinking about.

      The authorities need to clamp down, perhaps strict licensing or better still make drones illegal to use outside of special supervised places - along the lines of controls that apply to gun ownership.

      "

      What a good idea. Perhaps we should have strict licencing or prohibit suicide vests as well in order to prevent that type of attack ...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The obvious solution ..

    .. is to make drones from chicken parts.

    :)

  19. Dieter Haussmann

    I wouldn't go as far as to say these are staged or false flags (but there is definitely an agenda to stop the masses having access to such technology), but I have never seen a drone being flown in public and I'd like to think I get out a bit. It seems there are too many near misses to believe all of them and if someone said if you can fly this drone into that plane I'll give you £1m I still think you would be lucky to hit it. Is just the case that any time something bad happens they will pull out a smashed drone and blame them..

    Also, I thought drones by definition were not flown by an operator but sent on a sortie and flew autonomously. These in the news being called drones are just radio controlled quadcopters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Drones v Quadcopters

      All a matter of semantics.

      A drone (as by your definition) is not autonomous. It is flown remotely by an operator somewhere in Omaha (or some other state) - at least those that have been shown on UK TV hitting the taliban and others are flown that way, often by RAF personnel.

      The aerial photography/filming people use a variety of flying platforms. They call them drones because they often have more than 4 rotors, some of the biggies have 8. but they call them drones.

      You couldn't call a five rotor platform a quadcopter without getting laughed at.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Drones v Quadcopters

        you mean, the fifth rotor was not a spare?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Drone is commonly used term for UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), which includes radio-controlled quadcopters.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Incidently according to the CAA's own rules a drone under 7Kg does not need permission to fly within aerodrome airspace.

    1. Sir Alien

      Maybe not government permission but you are still likely to require permission of the property owner (assuming BAA is the airport owner). This is likely in place so that you can go to the nearest disused airbase and just ask local permission to fly around without breaking any rules.

      Without asking property owner permission it would be trespassing but not sure if that is a crime in itself.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Without asking property owner permission it would be trespassing but not sure if that is a crime in itself.

        "

        Firstly, trespass is not a criminal offense. Secondly flying *over* private property is not trespass.

    2. Vic

      Incidently according to the CAA's own rules a drone under 7Kg does not need permission to fly within aerodrome airspace

      That used to be the case, but is no longer so; CAP722 means that drones under 7Kg are now subject to the ANO.

      Vic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @vic no the only changes have been to drones that require permission to work. Non-commercial drones under 7kg are not restricted under *current rules*.

        Also this doesn't apply anyway, this happened over Richmond Park which is far outside the airport airspace.

        1. Vic

          no the only changes have been to drones that require permission to work. Non-commercial drones under 7kg are not restricted under *current rules*.

          Follow the link I posted. You'll see that the CAA has a different opinion.

          this happened over Richmond Park which is far outside the airport airspace.

          The London CTR[1] extends as far as Bracknell and Maidenhed at surface level - further at greater height. That puts Richmond Park a long, long way inside controlled airspace.

          Vic.

          [1] And this is Class A airspace - the most restricted airspace we have.

          1. Vic

            The London CTR[1] extends as far as Bracknell and Maidenhed at surface level

            For those that have never seen an aviation chart - I found an extract on the NATS site. It a couple of years old - don't use it for navigation purposes!

            The bits you're looking for are the purple shapes with shading on the inside edge. These are Class A controlled areas (other classes are in different colours - e.g. the Gatwick CTR is shown in blue). The applicability of controlled space in height is shown inside each shape - "SFC" means "Surface", numbers are altitude in feet.

            Have a look at the airspace around Heathrow - it extends a long, long way...

            Vic.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @vic the extent of the CTR is not relevant. 0-300ft is ok to fly in as according to that doc. I understand this is confusing but that is part of the problem. Not to mention Richmond Park has a designated model flying area.

              Where they were flying is not the problem, it is that it was at ~1700ft which a drone shouldn't be as high as anyway. (if an incident occurred at all, which is looking increasingly less likely)

              1. Vic

                the extent of the CTR is not relevant.

                Of course it's relevant. In this post, you said:

                this happened over Richmond Park which is far outside the airport airspace
                Which, as we can see, is total bobbins. The extent of the CTR is very relevant to disproving what you said as materially incorrect.

                Not to mention Richmond Park has a designated model flying area.

                That may be so. But it doesn't put Richmond park outside the CTR - and thus your claim that it is "far outside the airport airspace" would be an incorrect statement.

                Where they were flying is not the problem, it is that it was at ~1700ft which a drone shouldn't be as high as anyway.

                The height of the aircraft is very much part of "where they were flying"; aviation is all about navigating in three dimensions.

                I understand this is confusing but that is part of the problem

                It's not at all confusing, it merely requires people to refrain from stating inaccuracies or pure nonsense. Trying to claim that Richmond Park is outside controlled airspace would be one of those instances...

                Vic.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  You are confusing your zones

                  1. Vic

                    You are confusing your zones

                    No, I'm not. Look at the chart - the data is there. The London CTR is the innermost zone for Heathrow - there is no separate ATZ; the London CTR is Heathrow's ATZ, and access to it is controlled by Heathrow ATC.

                    If you're going to make sweeping statements, you should provide evidence. You have not done so - nor can you, since you are (incorrectly) arguing simple factual data that is published on the charts.

                    Vic.

                    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                      "

                      No, I'm not. Look at the chart - the data is there.

                      "

                      It is your interpretation of the data that is at fault. By your interpretation throwing a paper aircraft or releasing a toy helium balloon would constitute an airspace violation.

                      BTW, "Surface" does not mean quite what you think it means for the purpose of the regulations. You do not need to get ATC clearance before operating a hovercraft.

                      1. Vic

                        It is your interpretation of the data that is at fault

                        No, it isn't.

                        What I'm saying is that Richmond Park is within the CTR. And it is.

                        By your interpretation throwing a paper aircraft or releasing a toy helium balloon would constitute an airspace violation.

                        No it isn't.

                        I am not saying what is and what is not an airspace violation. I was merely replying to the claim that Richmond Park is well outside controlled airspace - that is simply factually untrue.

                        If you'd like to put some other words into my mouth, I'm sure you can claim those to be erroneous at all. But if you stick to what I'm claiming, you'll see that I am correct.

                        Vic.

                        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

                          @Vic I see the little misunderstanding here. You seem to be implying that they should not be flying anything at all, while in fact there is a designated area for this specific purpose - as long as they fly under 400ft.

                          I suppose you did not meany to imply that the drones or remote controlled models "must not be flown in this area and under 400ft", but this is how your argument comes out. Or perhaps this is indeed your argument, in which case please explain whether this also applies to e.g. toys like this, paper planes and hovercrafts.

                          1. Vic

                            I see the little misunderstanding here. You seem to be implying that they should not be flying anything at all, while in fact there is a designated area for this specific purpose - as long as they fly under 400ft.

                            No, I'm not.

                            I'm saying that, when the OP claimed that Richmond Park is "far outside the airport airspace", he was simply factually wrong.

                            I'm saying nothoing about what may or may not be flown from there - simply that the statement is cobblers, and trivially proven to be so.

                            Vic.

  21. Yugguy

    Tory Boi

    Our local fat Tory councillor drives, ooh, less than half a mile, in his car to fly his drone on the field at the back of our house.

    I feel I should shoot it down with an air rifle, on principle really.

  22. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Conspiracy nuts field day ..... was it a bird, was it a plane, was it Superman?

    The object has since been recovered and multiple reports suggest it was a drone, …

    Well, Simon, what was it? A drone or not? And why all the non-information whenever the object is supposedly recovered?

    1. james 68

      Re: Conspiracy nuts field day ..... was it a bird, was it a plane, was it Superman?

      Because he's fulla balls and scaremongering about a contentious topic to increase site traffic.

      "No one has yet been arrested, but police think the drone in question may have been launched from southwest London's Richmond Park. They searched the area for debris but haven't yet found anything." - so says every other news site.

  23. Yugguy

    Joke, thumbdown boy

    I reckon it's the person who worships Galloway. There is always a suspicious thumbdown on even my most innocuous posts.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if it's not good enough for Wang, it's not good enough for me,

    Funny how we both hated that journey which is partially why i quit.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I imagine a recurring nightmare for those responsible for airport security is a drone with enough explosive to damage an engine or control surface.

    Makes you wonder if some of these events are dry runs...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I imagine a recurring nightmare for terrorists is 5 years training in Afghanistan, the plotting, the smuggling in of explosives, that panicky shaky handed soldering in of the detonator, then watching your work wobble into the air, get caught by a gust of light breeze and blow a sparrow off its nest.

  26. DrM
    FAIL

    Fear Mongering

    Yes, the epidemic continues! Another plane load of people killed by a drone strike!

    These engines easily ingest 8-pound birds frozen solid. These planes regularly survive hailstorms. One of these consumer drones would be no match for a jet plane. There are articles written by experts saying this exactly, that the threat is way overblown, but they get little distribution. Nope, we want stories of doom and gloom!

    This plane hit one straight on -- they couldn't even find the spot on the plane where it struck, put the plane right back into service. Whirring drone propellers to tear thru a plane? Give me a break.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These engines easily ingest 8-pound birds frozen solid

    That depends on who is testing. As far as I'm aware, only the military don't thaw their chickens. As for articles citing credible research that proves a drone would not damage an engine, I'd welcome a link because I've not come across a scientific paper on this yet (and it's certainly needed).

    Even if we step aside from the possible damage a drone can cause I would still consider it lunacy to distract a pilot on arguably the most complex and difficult part of a plane's journey. It's still wilfully exposing an entire plane to risk, and I support locking up such people.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      Even if we step aside from the possible damage a drone can cause I would still consider it lunacy to distract a pilot on arguably the most complex and difficult part of a plane's journey.

      "

      Yes, it is indeed stupid (as well as illegal) to fly a drone at any altitude at which manned aircraft are likely to operate. Only a vanishingly small percentage of drone operators do such a thing, except perhaps as a one-off to test the limits of the device. Apart from anything else, it's really not nearly as interesting as flying it low to the ground.

      The point however is that the risk they present is being grossly exaggerated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The point however is that the risk they present is being grossly exaggerated.

        I disagree. Until there are formalised tests that prove that ingesting one of these drones is of no consequence to an engine, and until such time pilots confirm that seeing one of these things in the flight path during landing manoeuvres is not massively distracting at a *really* bad time I think we are quite justified in considering them a massive risk and act accordingly.

        As far as I can tell, the only people who seek to consider this risk minimal appear to be the very irresponsible drone owners who are the problem and who are ruining it for other hobbyists who DO think about risk and consequences. Frankly, people with such an underdeveloped appreciation for the risk they cause to others should not even be allowed to walk around without being accompanied by an adult.

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