back to article The most annoying British export since Piers Morgan: 'Drones' halt US airport flights

It seems the UK's latest pain-in-the-ass craze has made its way stateside again, as alleged sightings of rogue drones brought Newark Liberty International Airport to a halt Tuesday. Officials at New Jersey's largest airport said it temporarily stopped air traffic in the early evening after flying gizmos were apparently spotted …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think there's money to be made in low cost, short range, light weight SAM sites.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      The only problem with that is the concept of "low cost". Guidance systems aren't cheap. Maybe AA guns with flak? Oh wait... the stuff will fall somewhere so maybe we just need to build a wall around all the airports.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        A wall won't stop them. The drones will just bring a ladder.

        Wait, I've got it! We don't need a wall, just a slatted steel fence. That'll do the job -- and the drone operators will pay for it.

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge

          A slatted fence would be perfect - as long as you can adjust the height near instantly so you can block the drone's path. I'm thinking we could use some kind of some kind of rapidly expanding gas to lift the fence to the right height...

          1. Trixr

            Drone Pong?

          2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

            Re: "A slatted fence... - ...adjust the height near instantly so you can block the drone's path.

            so essentially this? Inquiring coyotes who operate drones want to know.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        "Guidance systems aren't cheap."

        Historically they haven't been, but now that you can run image recognition on a RPi, perhaps there's much easier ways to home in on a drone?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Box cutters and cheap drones

    It's the simple things that are the most effective.

    Dear spook:

    Not condoning just commenting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Box cutters and cheap drones

      And denial of service, like spreading a trickle of gunpowder or such across the departure area, and watch the backups.

      Ditto the caveat.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Box cutters and cheap drones

      Suicide Drone with lump of C4 attached.

      I can see an upgrade to BBC's "Robot Wars" coming...

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Box cutters and cheap drones

        "Suicide Drone with lump of C4 attached.

        I can see an upgrade to BBC's "Robot Wars" coming..."

        The current Robot Wars series (USA based) has various rules about the types of weapons allowed. Explosives and fire are banned, except for effects.

        It's a pity, since I quite liked my idea of magnetic shaped charges (a la Mossad) on a swarm of bots. Or a small cutting torch :)

  3. aberglas

    500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

    NOBODY in the mainstream has questioned how a 500g drone could destroy a 100 ton airliner.

    Sure, a well aimed 100kg military drone could do serious damage, take out an engine. But that is not what is being talked about here.

    It makes as much sense as the idea that a terrorist could blow up an airliner with a box cutter.

    Size does matter.

    (There was a video of someone firing a largish drone out of a canon directly into a Mooney (very light aircraft) wing and doing damage, but still not destroying the main spar. An airliner weighs roughly 100 times a Mooney. The leading edges are made of thick high grade aluminum. And they can fly well on one engine, and even no engines is unlikely to lead to a hull loss if the pilot is competent.)

    1. aberglas

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/what-might-happen-if-airliner-hit-small-drone

      http://www.assureuas.org/projects/deliverables/sUASAirborneCollisionReport.php

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      Of course a drone isn't going to immediately outright "destroy" a plane. No one's claiming that. But it will be bad news to an engine if ingested. Or a windshield. It'll be expensive, and the airport doesn't want to be on the hook for the potential repair bill, the airline doesn't want to deal with the insurance and downtime, and of course, there's the safety aspect.

      Other posters are sharing scientific studies. Here's an unscientific one - a bird going into an engine:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KhZwsYtNDE

      Now imagine a metal and plastic drone, of unknown size, with a Li-on battery.

      C.

      1. Shardik

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        Expensive repair bills? Is that all they're worrying about? If we're saying it's not about life safety, then quite honestly just 'get on with it' and let them fly.

        What is 'expensive' in comparison to the £15m bill EasyJet just reported for the Gatwick disturbance (and that's only one airline). Not to mention the invisible costs to all those who's plans were disrupted.

        I'd be wondering what's the excess on their windscreen insurance policy and how much does an engine cost?

        1. Martin
          WTF?

          Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

          ...quite honestly just 'get on with it' and let them fly.

          At the moment, it's just one drone. But if you just "get on with it" and let them fly, then the next thing you know is that an airliner will have to try to land through a crowd of a hundred of them. You still think that won't cause any problems?

          1. kurios

            Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

            This.

            DDoS of an airport could be done with ~ two hundred drones, each carrying a 100g tungsten carbide ingot. Put ten up at hourly intervals, flying inertial paths (no GPS needed) intersecting the departure routes and nobody's going anywhere. Capital cost ~$300/drone. Operation capital cost ~ $US7K for 10 drones x 24 hr.

            The rapid pace of technology is showing us how fragile our infrastructure really is.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      And they can fly well on one engine

      In level flight, sure. During takeoff/landing when drone encounters around an airport would occur? Only if your definition of "well" is "a good pilot who isn't tired/hungover will be able to recover with limited panic from the cabin".

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        In level flight, sure. During takeoff/landing when drone encounters around an airport would occur? Only if your definition of "well" is "a good pilot who isn't tired/hungover will be able to recover with limited panic from the cabin".

        Commercial airliners and virtually all certified multi engine aircraft are capable of climb at MTOW on asymmetric power and landing with no turbine power. At some distance on the approach a pilot might not be able to extend the glide enough by cleaning the flap, but with one engine, no problem. These pilots have practised these scenarios on sim plenty.

        However, the preference is, of course, to keep the aircraft as far away from the edges of the safety envelope as possible and avoid testing these situations with live passengers. It has been proven in the past that human factors can cause even a fully serviceable plane to crash. When the aircraft is in take off or landing dirty configuration then there are places exposed where bits of little drone could lodge and jam retraction. Imagine an aileron jammed and the pilot having to dig out secondary controls SIM training to get back down.

        If an airliner hit a DJI Mavic on climb out and it made a noise loud enough to alert those on board that it had happened, then that airliner would have to return to land immediately for inspection.

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        @ DougS: During takeoff/landing when drone encounters around an airport would occur?

        Have you looked at the youtube video that diodedesign posted? Now I have no connection to the aviation industry but to my untutored eye (and ears!) that looks and sounds like a masterpiece of professionalism on the part of the flight crew and Air Traffic Control, as well as the ability of the aircraft to remain in a climb with a seriously defective engine. It would seem that the strike occured either just before or just after the wheels left the ground (and I do mean just) and yet disaster was avoided.

        I am not condoning the use of drones near airports; neither am I suggesting that the loss of an engine at exactly the wrong time cannot lead to disaster, merely querying your implied assertion that a crash is inevitable.

        Go back and look at the video.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

          your implied assertion that a crash is inevitable

          If you think DougS implied that a crash would be "inevitable" in that case, your reading skills need a serious upgrade.

    4. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      There was a video of someone firing a largish drone out of a canon directly into a Mooney (very light aircraft)

      Mooney made some lovely aircraft, like the 1950s speed machine the M20, But only light aircraft, nothing that would fall into the EASA VLA category.

    5. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      That's like claiming that nobody in the mainstream has questioned how a tsetse fly could kill a human.

      It's both completely bollocks and missing the obvious knock-on effects of a bite/impact.

    6. Potemkine! Silver badge
    7. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      You know how that tiny little stone flicked up by the lorry in front can make a complete hole in a laminated windscreen designed to do nothing more than protect you from such thing, windscreens which are now *structural* components in cars, they are that strong?

      Yeah, that's at, even at the worst case, a combined 140mph.

      Now an ordinary commercial jet may take off at way over that speed, and thus the physics are equivalent at best, but likely much worse (even if it's hitting a "hovering" stable object, it's still the same, physics-wise). If a little stone is capable of shattering a windscreen, and little drone is also capable. A 10-20kg drone (like the type hinted at at being over London airports that time) can cause catastrophic damage in the same instance.

      Have that drone flying towards you at a speed as well, even worse.

      Hitting intakes, pitot tubes, engines, control surfaces, etc., even worse. If a tiniest part of that thing gets jammed in a control surface you can crash a plane into the ground, especially if it's just about to land or just taken off, the reaction times just don't allow for those kinds of failures.

      There's a reason jet engines had dead chickens fired at them to test - even a bird strike can be serious. And while the plane may "survive", they certainly will cause untold damage. And that's a squishy bird, a thing you could wring its neck and break every bone with your bare hands.

      Remember the Hudson River airplane?

      "US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320 which, in the climbout after takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently lost all engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan."

      How many birds out of a flock of geese did that take? I bet they didn't hit them all, so not a lot. And worse because it was on take-off where you are low, fast, and damaged control surfaces or engines have effects that can put you down into the ground in seconds. That pilot had a HOLLYWOOD MOVIE made about him, it was such a miraculous save. All from a couple of geese striking a major airliner on takeoff.

      It's serious. It's not just playing about. The CAA, airports, airlines and pilots don't just shut down an entire airport for the fun of it, costing them ALL millions of pounds of business and huge reputational damage.

      You might well have a dozen drones hit a plane and nothing happens. But it only takes one unfortunate metal strut to lodge in a control surface, strike the engine, shatter the windscreen or any of a thousand possibilities to cause a complete destruction of the plane and everyone on it, not to mention anyone under the immediate flightpath.

      Risk = Chance (maybe low) x Impact (potentially catastrophic).

      1. S_W

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        So your assertion is that hitting a 0.5KG drone is less serious than hitting multiple 6KG geese?

        "Squishy" things aren't squishy at speed. Ask anyone that's hit water at speed.

    8. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      Just for the sake of comparison (and I know aviation has moved on since then) how big was the bit of debris that killed the Parisian Concorde?

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        how big was the bit of debris that killed the Parisian Concorde?

        From Wikipedia:

        "A titanium alloy strip that was part of a DC-10 engine cowl, identified as a wear strip about 435 millimetres (17.1 in) long, 29 to 34 millimetres (1.1 to 1.3 in) wide, and 1.4 millimetres (0.055 in) thick.

        The Concorde ran over this piece of debris during its take-off run, cutting a tyre and sending a large chunk of tyre debris (4.5 kilograms or 9.9 pounds) into the underside of the aircraft's wing at an estimated speed of 140 metres per second (310 mph). It did not directly puncture any of the fuel tanks, but it sent out a pressure shockwave that ruptured the number 5 fuel tank at the weakest point, just above the undercarriage. Leaking fuel gushing out from the bottom of the wing was most likely ignited either by an electric arc in the landing gear bay (debris cutting the landing gear wire) or through contact with hot parts of the engine."

      2. S_W

        Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

        It was a 4.5KG piece of tyre.

        1. Trixr

          Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

          The piece of tire was torn off due to running over the strip. A classic example of a "cascading failure".

          (And whoops, didn't see this comment chain before my own contribution)

    9. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      I'd be more worried about the risk of an accident by distracting the crew at a crucial moment in the flight.

    10. The First Dave

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      One of the reason's for having two engines is so that _when_ (not if) one malfunctions, you can still fly on the other one (with a bit of luck/skill) - this doesn't work nearly so well if your 'spare' engine has just ingested a drone, thrown a blade through the wing, and burst one of the tyres...

    11. Trixr

      Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

      How about an entire 80 tonne Concorde brought down by a 435mm x 30mm x 1.4mm titanium strip (through a classic chain-of-events failure)?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_4590

      Not to mention the potential impact of distracting the flight crew during a critical flight phase - landing a plane is pretty much the *most* critical phase. A drone smacking into the windscreen when you're 75m away from the ground might not be the most relaxing experience.

  4. macjules Silver badge

    Annoying Exports?

    The most annoying British export since Piers Morgan

    There isn’t one .. apart from maybe Nigel Farage.

    1. Ian Moffatt 1

      Re: Annoying Exports?

      But both of them came back, unfortunately, that makes them more like boomerangs than exports.

  5. Danny 2 Silver badge

    869 US dead due to Britain in 2019

    869 gun deaths in the US this year already. [Source: https://www.gunviolencearchive.org]

    And the only reason decent Americans have to be armed to the teeth is because we Brits keep on threatening to invade them and impose our tyranny of Prince Philip crashing around without legal censure.

    I think it is high-time a cross party bunch of parliamentarians issued a clear statement that we no longer wish to invade the USA, and their various "Well-Regulated Militia" can stand down and disarm.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: 869 US dead due to Britain in 2019

      You forgot about the Mexicans.

    2. ratfox Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: 869 US dead due to Britain in 2019

      The well-regulated militia now exist so they can defend themselves against their own government, though.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: 869 US dead due to Britain in 2019

        The well-regulated militia now exist so they can defend themselves against their own government, though.

        AR-15 vs M1 Abrams? Good luck!

        1. A.P. Veening

          Re: 869 US dead due to Britain in 2019

          "AR-15 vs M1 Abrams? Good luck!"

          Who needs an AR-15 against an M1 Abrams, a couple of well placed Molotov cocktails will do a lot better.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What to do about Piers Moron droning on and on?

  7. DropBear Silver badge

    Can we please drop the "naughty folks simply love to bugger up airport operations with drones" pretence already...? It's becoming increasingly obvious that these are either someone somewhere testing the waters for something bigger (in which case nothing less that seeing it happen BOTH in the UK and the US would make sense) or else the (possibly non-existent) "drone menace" is increasingly picked up by relevant powers-that-be as convenient excuse-du-jour for whatever it is they actually want to actually achieve (in which case nothing less that seeing it happen BOTH in the UK and the US would make sense). Therefore I'm obviously shocked, shocked I tell you!

  8. kain preacher Silver badge

    I predict more unconfirmed drone sightings at US air ports. Or not do to idiot drone operators or hysterical but as a form of work stoppage.

    Dont forget right now in the US ATC have not been paid in 30 days

  9. Big Al 23

    When people die in a plane crash...

    ...then something realistic will be done to stop drones around airports.

  10. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Self-limiting problem

    Newark is a little sketchy, but for years the mob has treated nearby JFK as a glorified piggy bank. If some tosser DoS'es JFK with a drone that may impact revenue from the import / export and truck hijacking rackets. If the perpetrator is lucky all they would need is a spot of orthopaedic surgery, perhaps combined with some dental work.

  11. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

    Riight

    So somebody saw a so called drone flying approx 1KM above the ground.

    Must have been a f*cking big drone!

    Must have had a nice big battery to get up that high considering the climb rate is not going to be amazing for many drones.

    Who the hell thought they saw it? These things cant be picked up on radar. Is there a mountain near by that someone was climbing up and saw it?

    I may be short sighted but I really doubt that someone can see a drone, lets say as big as a phantom, from 1000m, when its getting dark. Did a pilot see it when flying past? I dont trust pilots to be able to identify flying objects either as they have human eyes too, are distracted by many things so cant stare out of the window too long, and have been reporting UFO's for decades before. In fact I think most wont report a UFO in case of ridicule, but now we can call them drones I guess they feel safe to report that those things they have always seen up there are still up there.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Riight

      Like I said expect to see more phantom drones. Next one will only be at 500m but with a strobing laser pointer .

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not saying its aliens

    Perhaps some sort of electromagnetic life form?

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