The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published guidance for airports about “drone incidents”, in a bid to help authorities deal with the rising number of drone related incidents at European airports.
What are the new guidelines?
The new guidelines, which law enforcement agencies helped to craft, will assist airports in determining whether any criminal acts have been committed during future drone incidents. The new advice is also aiming to ensure that airports are prepared for such incidents in the future, and that they have a plan of action in place for when similar incidents occur.
The guidelines are addressed to over 500 airports across Europe that lie within the European Aviation System. Although the guidelines are relevant to both large and small airports, the new advice is particularly aimed at small aerodromes that EASA says: “may not have the resources to develop the more extensive plans”.
Currently, only one of the three sections that make up the new guidelines is being released to the public. The other two sections will be reserved solely for the relevant authorities due to “the varied nature of the threat [posed by drones]”.
Why were new guidelines needed?
A growth in the number of drone related incidents at major airports across Europe in recent years has alarmed air regulators, airport authorities and air travellers. EASA cited events at Madrid, Frankfurt and Riga Airport as the latest concerns over the disruption and safety concerns caused by drones. The agency emphasised that in the most recent case at Frankfurt, on 21 February, the incident forced the diversion of some flights.
EASA believes that the guidelines will help airports deal with both accidental intrusions and disruptions, but also with events that have the possibility of shutting down airports for prolonged periods. Over three days in December 2018, reported sightings of drones at the UK’s Gatwick Airport resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights and widespread disruption.
EASA’s Executive Director Patrick Ky said that: “The root problem here is that these activities are unauthorised, and therefore by definition take place in ignorance or avoidance of the rules that have been defined for safe drone operations”.
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