A recent spate of near-miss and claimed sighting events involving drones and commercial aircraft has resulted in significant disruption and cost to airports, airlines, and passengers. According to the FAA, the number of such incidents has increased by around 1,200 percent worldwide over the past four years, increasing pressure on the air transport industry to find a way to mitigate the risk.
This challenge will be addressed by airport safety and air traffic management experts at the Drone Disruption Summit to be held at the UK’s London Heathrow Airport on October 15. The agenda will feature first-hand accounts from those involved in responding to serious disruption caused by drone incursions at airports around the world.
For instance, more than 100 flights were canceled or seriously delayed at London Gatwick Airport over 33 hours in December 2018 at an estimated cost to airlines of almost $65 million. At Dubai International Airport in February 2019, the world’s third-busiest gateway closed for 32 minutes by drone incursions at a cost of $100,000 per minute (i.e. $3.2 million in total).
Topics addressed in the Drone Disruption Summit will include the following: the integration of drone technology at airports; managing counter unmanned air systems operations; assessing risk and regulatory needs; and unmanned traffic management and the future role of air traffic management. Speakers will include Damien Trower, head of airport security at London Gatwick, Michael Rudolph, head of the airspace section with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Alastair Muir, safety director at air traffic services group NATS.
“We’re going to be looking at the challenges faced by the key stakeholders and trying to establish what needs to happen to promote a system in which the risk of drones is mitigated because the introduction of drones into the airport environment is almost inevitable,” said conference producer Freddie Metherell. “There is a real sense of urgency because new disruption events are happening all the time. Governments have recognized the need to step in, and there should be a level-headed approach to applying the right technology to the issue and ensuring that everyone in the [air transport] ecosystem is aware of what needs to be done.”
According to Metherell, the current regulatory environment around counter-drone technology makes it somewhat challenging for the industry to be proactive, but airports and airlines are eager to establish what can be done and to take action. “This summit will make the connection between the drone/counter-drone sector and the airport and airline operational environment,” he told AIN.