Here are 7 Alarming Drone Incidents that Closed Major Airports

Most of us understand the essential roles that drones are going to play in the future of our society.

Benefits of Using Drones

The benefits we will gain from using them are endless – and more uses are being developed continually. These tiny flying units are already showing their value on a global stage.

Here are a few examples (among thousands):

  • Deliver food and medical supplies to impoverished people that are unreachable
  • Monitor the welfare of wildlife, especially those that are endangered
  • Enter dangerous situations like fires and riots, and provide important video
  • Inspect unsafe structures like buildings and bridges without risking human life

Drones creating chaos

But of course, drones have caused a few problems too. Or more accurately, the humans that operate drones have caused them.

One big headache with drones is how people use them to spy on their neighbors. And then sometimes they’ll fall out of the sky and cause some serious damage.

It’s just a matter of time before evil players start creating new ways to terrorize people.

How drones annoy airports

Perhaps the most annoying things about drones come primarily from the hobbyists who fly drones recreationally. That is the act of flying them into air traffic zones, where they disrupt and even stop airplanes from taking off or landing.

A single outing that creates a thrill in the heart of a recreational drone pilot can cause all sorts of grief for thousands of other people. And that’s before considering the enormous costs that airlines are enduring from delayed and canceled flights.

Of course, we can’t overlook the danger of drones entering these air spaces as well. It would only take one drone getting sucked up into the turbine of a jetliner to jeopardize the lives of hundreds of passengers and crew on board.

But nonetheless, they still do it – here are seven examples:

Gatwick Airport

From December 19 through 21, 2018, some 100,000 passengers got stranded at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex. This occurred because two different drones prevented any aircraft from taking off or landing.

These drones were initially sighted at about 9:00 PM, December 19. And then they kept disappearing and reappearing over and over again until December 21.

While the batteries on recreational drones have a small amount of flight time, it seems that this incident was deliberate – as they kept returning. Visually, these drones seemed bulkier than most hobbyist drones, which indicated that perhaps they’d been modified to house bigger batteries. Some authorities think there may have been more than two drones.

These rogue drones finally departed from the airport for good on December 21, after the military used specialized jamming devices. In the end, Gatwick was shut down for some 36 hours. During this period, 837 flights were scheduled to take off. 160 of those flights were canceled, while the remaining flights departed with most of their stranded passengers.

Police did manage to arrest two people who were linked to the incident.

Heathrow Airport

In London, the airspace of Heathrow Airport was also invaded by two drones in May of 2017. Several pilots first discovered these drones, although they weren’t exactly sure what they saw initially. Most of them reported seeing a drone or ‘something like it.’

These two objects hovered in the air and didn’t seem to be bothered by the winds, despite it being a windy day. One drone hovered at an altitude of around 5,500 feet, while the other remained about 4,500 feet.

Some believe that a nearby airplane may have collided with one of them since they were too small to alert the aircraft’s collision avoidance system.

Ben Gurion Airport

Israel’s primary airport named Ben Gurion Airport, was closed down for ten minutes because of a drone in January 2018. The drone was seen hovering over the airport around 7:20 PM one evening. A curious coincidence was that US vice president Mike Pence had just landed at this airport a few hours earlier.

Drone incursions like this one have actually become a recurring nuisance at Ben Gurion Airport. A month before this event, the airport had been shut down for some 15 minutes when another drone was seen hovering in the same general area. Other drone incidents like these occurred in November 2016 and some time during 2015.

The increase in rogue drones has uncovered lapses in the national security of Israel. This was a time when various Israeli security agencies could not even identify who was responsible for the invading drones. The government finally had to establish an anti-drone task force.

Lisbon Airport

All flight operations in Lisbon Airport were completely shut down for 11 minutes on September 19, 2018. This took place when a drone was seen hovering above the runway late in the evening. Ten airplanes were placed in a holding pattern as they circled the airport awaiting orders to land.

Two other airplanes had to be diverted to Faro Airport due to low fuel. Each of these two airplanes was carrying around 300 passengers. All of these passengers were placed in hotels for the evening and subsequently driven to Lisbon the next morning. Police were unsuccessful in finding those responsible for the drone invasions.

Lisbon Airport has also been plagued with drone incursion beginning in 2014. In that incident, the facility was closed down for 26 minutes. And two separate drone invasions had also occurred a few weeks earlier.

Dubai International Airport

During June of 2018, a rogue civilian drone caused Dubai International Airport to be shut down for over an hour. Some 21 flights had to be directed to land at other airports during the shutdown.

Precisely two years before this drone incursion, Dubai’s airspace was shut down for 69 minutes after a drone was seen hovering in the vicinity. During this event, 22 flights had to be diverted. And that year was also plagued with other drone disruptions at that airport.

Since Dubai International Airport is considered the world’s busiest airport for international trips, any shutdown for them is a logistical nightmare – costing tons of money. It is estimated that the facility loses around $95,368 for each minute it shuts down due to drones.

Experts contend that drone-inflicted shutdowns during the year 2016 alone cost the airport around $16.6 million. Drones have become such a nuisance that the General Civil Aviation Authority declared the airport one of the four regions where drones are strictly forbidden.

Wellington International Airport

The country of New Zealand has also been a victim of rogue drones. In November 2018, the airspace of its Wellington International Airport was shut down when a drone was seen hovering less than 2 miles from its runway. The drone was only about 656 feet off the ground. It was spotted by an airplane that had landed around 6 PM that evening.

It was also verified by pilots on planes that were awaiting take-off. They watched it hover over the airport for around 23 minutes before it departed. Several airplanes circled in a holding pattern during the shutdown, and ten other planes were delayed on the ground as they awaited take-off orders.

Indira Gandhi International Airport

Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India, was shut down in August 2017 for nearly two hours. All runways were shut down when several pilots told authorities about a hovering drone they’d seen while preparing to land.

The pilots reported that drones flew toward their aircraft. Police were called and finally gave the all-clear signal. Four flights were forced to land at other airports during the incursion.