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Why drones could pose a greater risk to aircraft than birds

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WT Economist

If a drone brings down an airplane, its owner will be guilty of negligent homicide. And its manufacturer will be liable for all financial harm suffered to everyone involved -- if the drone did not have a mechanism that prevented from flying where it was not allowed.

sikko6 in reply to Armin Grewe

Did you ever believe that terrorists can use cars and trucks to massacre people?
Don't you think it's possible that terrorists can hack autonomous cars to drive to kill people?
Never trust your unimaginative sense!


Drones can be used by terrorists to bring down airplanes.
Isn't this frightening?
Ban all drones.


What if all civilian drones were required, as a condition of sale, to be fitted with a chip whose firmware was (a) integral to the operation of the drone, so it couldn't be removed, and (b) capable of accepting an encrypted signal that would automatically cause it to shut off the drone's engines? Airports and other sensitive areas could then propagate a suitable signal that would automatically cause a drone to fall out of the sky if it came into the area of propagation. This would mean that we wouldn't have to rely on the wisdom of human operators (always a bad idea) but instead work on the basis of a fail-safe. And yes, a very clever engineer could work around such a system but the vast majority of incidents could be avoided because the average drone user isn't going to have either the desire or the expertise to engineer such a work-around.

Armin Grewe in reply to CA-Oxonian

Fall out of the sky? Are you serious? So that it falls into the path of a car driving past the airport, shattering the windscreen and causing a collision with a passing bus, which then crashes into a wall, killing several dozen school children?

You haven't thought that through, have you?

Armin Grewe

Apples and pears. There was a whole flock of geese disabling both (or even all four, too lazy to look it up how many engines the plane had) engines of the plane. Drones don't normally appear in flocks, so a scenario where both (or more) engines are disabled at the same time by drones is essentially impossible.

Armin Grewe in reply to sikko6

But that's exactly the point: People (including the terrorists) have been imagining terrorists using drones to bring down planes for years. Yet it isn't happening. May be because it is actually a huge challenge to do it while taking a lorry and driving it into people is a doddle.
And for autonomous cars, that's possible, but rather unlikely (at least for now). Because again you need some skills to do that. Why bother if you can just take a car/lorry and drive it into people? Why bother if you can (at least in some countries) just go into a shop and buy a bunch of guns and lots of ammunition to go on a shooting spree?
You are talking movie plot scenarios. Hypothetically possible, but because of their complexity rather unlikely. Or in many cases just fantasy. Terrorists want maximum impact for minimum effort, which is easiest done with simple methods.

Armin Grewe in reply to sikko6

Really? These warnings have been coming for years now, the bad terrorists will bring down planes galore with drones. And they still haven't figured out how to do it? If it's that simple and therefore drones are so dangerous and frightening, don't you think terrorists would be all over them, working very hard to figure it out? Shouldn't we at least have seen lots of attempts?
Yet all we've got are a few amateurs not following rules having a handful (compared to dozens of bird strikes every single day) near misses and minor collisions.

let freedom ring everywhere

All drones sold for civilian or commercial use should be programmed with do-not-fly information. Then, any drone which violates airspace restrictions would automatically fly by pre-planned safe routes to a collection point where used drones are sold. A person who stands to lose his pricey toy, or at a minimum has to ransom it, will be much more careful about how he or she flies it.

Airspace is a public asset. You can own all the drones you want but you can't necessarily fly them how you want.

Instead of having the drone fall out of the sky, it should have to go into a mode where it automatically returns to its takeoff point. Similar automated controls are routinely built into many drones, in case the control link to the operator is lost.
Even better would be a system in which a drone which violates airspace restrictions automatically flies to a collection point where used drones are sold. A person who stands to lose his pricey toy will be much more careful about how he or she flies it.

Armin Grewe in reply to ICMAD

The article started with the Hudson incident where both engines were disabled, making the plane unable to return to the airport and forcing the water landing.
One engine failing or being disabled by bird strike is actually a comparably common event. Planes are designed to be able to operate on one engine and return to the airport. While not nice that is far from as problematic as losing all engines.

ICMAD in reply to Armin Grewe

Is that not what you meant? Then why do you think it matters that drones are unlikely to disable both (or more) engines at the same time? Isn't disabling even one engine bad enough?