Drone sighting at Gatwick halts flights



Actually, when was in the UK, I met a guy who trained birds…hawks and owls I think. He had a business where he would come to your location and “fly” the birds around a few times to scare away other birds–“nuisance birds” like pigeons and flocking birds like…I have no idea…European Swallows?

Some of his work was in London getting rid of pigeons from various buildings. Another job he had was at RAF Mildenhall, home to USAFE’s KC135 and KC-10 wing. He’d take his birds (one at a time I’m pretty sure) out around the runway and fly them. Not sure how often he did it. He had a contract with the air force so it was probably a periodic thing. Evidently it worked and the USAF was happy with it. They took him up in a tanker for a training mission. He had lots of photos…really cool.


Well, there is, from a risk analysis point of view.
The hobby drone pose a risk. There’s no question about it. This has been analyzed and the risk factor is lower than that of wildlife (birds). And we do accept birds in the daily operation of commercial air transport.
There are mitigations, such as airport patrol with scare guns. Removal of eggs, etc. Some places they even try to alter the migration pattern of birds.
The hobby drone is a risk that is also possible to mitigate. Information to the public. Owner register. Large fines, etc.
The drone threat will be there, but so will the birds.
If we can’t accept and deal with risk, we can’t fly.

The problem is how to tell the hobby drone from a terror drone. That’s a risk that is much harder to mitigate.

So, I’m not saying drones are harmless. They are not. Nor are birds. Yet we take our chances with those…

And, I don’t have a problem with you, or anyone else, having other views on this. I value other peoples opnions and views, even of they don’t coincide with mine. :slight_smile:

Are you sure they weren’t African Swallows…?


One thing to keep in mind about UAS, they have a lot of the same requirements/limitations as full scale. So they could be used to carry weaponry, explosives, etc., it’s not like they suddenly become an extreme weapon of war without getting exponentially larger. Goes double if one wants any reasonable payload as multirotors are extremely inefficient. Hence why a few years ago, ISIS used conventional planes to deliver what amounted to hand grenades in an attack.

Not to say a grenade wouldn’t cause any damage, just that it’s not going to be anywhere near the class of a HELLFIRE or a Mk82 in terms of explosive power.


Think of it this way: If birds were drones, helicopter flight would be impossibly hazardous. The reason the risk is not high for the helo pilot is birds mostly fly away. They hear and see flying machines and othen (but not always) attempt to avoid. This is never true of a drone flown irresponsibly. Also, small birds are squishy. The get sliced or obliterated often (but not always) without doing catastrophic damage. Drones are not squishy.

I’ve hit plenty of birds. On cracked the outer pane of the windscreen on a A320 I was flying into chicago. Another went right through the engine. The smell that cycled through the AC system was awful but no damage was done. (Although the bird might disagree). The other impacts were little more than red smears on various parts of the plane. Even my 800 pound wood and fabric airplane stands a fair chance against a small bird—who again is likely trying to avoid me. Contact with any drone capable of flight above 200’ would be fatal. Why does that worry me so much? Because I fly in a FAA sanctioned practice “box” miles from the closest airport but overhead a really beatiful sod farm. And I sometimes fly on the deck—perfectly legally. RC doesn’t scare me because I can see the operators. Drone operators can be anywhere. If something happens it is unlikely that they would ever be discovered.

And that is the 3rd thing that separates a drone from a bird. There is little risk of any repercussion for bad behavior. A bird will be attacked by that huge, noisy adversary flying nearby. A light plane pilot will face legal action and loss of certificate if he knowingly flies close to another plane that doesn’t want him there. A drone operator living in the country is immune. He needn’t see. He needn’t be seen. (The two requirements for VFR flight).


I could see drone operations going the way of licensing, registration, and enforcement actions. And I’m fine with that given that I think the inevitable drone/aircraft collision is bound to happen (already happened if we are counting the helicopter encounter). The problem is, as with any law, the lawbreakers aren’t going to care. If we have a system where when you buy a drone you have to get a license before you can fly it (even recreationally), there will be systems to bypass that, and people will.

Again, I like to fall back on the statistics to tell me if drones are a risk. I mean, each day across the world 800 weather balloons are launched twice a day and I don’t know how many have been hit, but it hasn’t been many.

Anyway, like I said, ADS-B is going to become a requirement for all drones eventually I’d bet. Not that I think that will help much other than to perhaps drive the cost of the drones up to the point of reducing the people flying them. And then people will just hack around it and take their chances.


As @Troll mentioned, we accept threats of far greater risk as a matter of course.

Things that have brought down airliners in the past :
Mechanical/systems failure
Bombs/terrorism (numerous)
Missile (over The Ukraine)
Pilot/crew error (often a factor but the Buffalo crash springs to mind)
Suicidal pilot (Germanwings)
Bird strike (Cactus 1549)

I’m sure I have missed a few.

No drones so far…


Very true. However the numbers are low currently. We all have our fears. My 767 hitting a drone isn’t one of them. The biplane is another story. If I didn’t own that I wouldn’t care.


Funnily enough, a lot of birds will attack drones/RC:

Actually, most are plenty capable of hitting 200’, they just can’t sustain it for long. My Stearman can actually stay up for 15 minutes if I push it to the absolute max, but it’s also got two batteries. Said batteries are also ~$100 each. In my Cub, using the same batteries, I can fly for about 7 minutes before I need to bring it down (I keep a large battery reserve so as to not overstress the battery and allow for emergencies). Most quads/multirotors typically can’t stay flying for that long without needing a battery recharge. The ones that can aren’t cheap and are pretty big, not likely to be in the hands of Joe Average.

Technically already is, but thus far most are either ignoring it or don’t know about the requirement.


I am not trying to get the last word here. But I do want to admit that I suffer from a severe predjudice against automation. I hate robots. I hate artificial stability. Today I was on the bus to the training center seated next to a Captain who was transitioning to the 777. He was so gobsmacked by the way the plane would handle the rudder during a V1 cut or a single engine go around. How anyone with self-respect could be impressed by technology that intended to chip away your skill to me is like basking in having a bit of your humanity taken away. He was a nice guy and very funny. But still I wanted to slap him on the mouth. So yes it is a sickness and I fully acknowledge it. I see drones as the ultimate form of robot replacing a respectable and hard-earned human skill. When the robots really do take over, I want it to be on record that I should be among the first to be plugged into the matrix. Because I hate them. I hate 777’s. I hate Teslas. And I hate drones.

There. I feel so much better.


You hate Tesla’s? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:



Well sorry. I flat love your car. It is about as beautiful as any car currently made. And American. So no, I don’t hate them purely. I hate them for the truth they represent: that humans are inept and unecessary. I had dinner with my sim partner and his friend, a Captain he once flew with regularly. That guy was bragging about playing Asteroids on the big screen while his Tesla flew down the 101.

We live in a brave new world. I want no part of it.

A case against me:

Sent from my iPhone


I and a couple other guys would like to have a word with you.




I know that I am a “drone” proponent, but I truly loathe the fact that they will make Luke Skywalker a non essential component of the space fighter. Starbuck and the lot of them are doomed, never mind the current crop of fighter pilots. My only hope is that the F-35 will be around long enough for one of my daughters to get a shot at one, if that is their goal. I’ve been administering the Kool-aide in small but steady doses.


I was just pulling your leg. Actually, after driving the car for the past couple of months, I can honestly tell you that I don’t trust the ‘auto-pilot’ feature at all. It is useful at times, but you have to stay mentally engaged. Kind of like using an airplane autopilot in that respect I guess.


You are forgetting that Luke lived ”a long time ago” and is thus in our past. They didn’t have our advanced drone technology back then. They knew how to use the force, though… :wink:


Just out of interest, do you drive an automatic car or a ‘stick shift’? To me, as a UK resident (most of the cars here are manual transmission), I see this in the same way - a piece of technology designed to make the pilots/drivers job easier. Personally I’m not keen on driving automatic transmission cars as it feels like there is a missing source of feedback on the condition of the engine, but I guess I would get used to it after a while.


I drive manual trucks and automatic trucks. With 44 tons trying to leave the road at any moment the gearbox is the last thing on my mind. Being in control is down to the driver not the technology.


Stick. Not the most practical thing in NJ/NYC traffic. But once we hit the open road I still smile every time I get through all six smoothly.


Speaking as somebody who is sitting in the back of that 777, I’m a proponent of any technology that can make a fair pilot look like a good pilot during a V1 cut out or single engine go around. Just say’n. :grin:

As far as drones go…my experience with drones–actually UAVs–is tasking RQ-4 GlobalHawk missions when I was the J2 for Operation Tomodachi. Flying at something like 60,000 ft MSL, we didn’t have much air traffic to contend with.

BTW, the RQ-4 is completely operated by computers. There is no human with a stick and throttle. The missions are programed into the UAV and off it goes–take off, cruise, landing–all done onboard with GPS. Rise of the Machines? Its already here! :open_mouth:


WOW! I did not know that! Learn something new every day. I’d love to know more about that. Could you recommend any literature @Hangar200?