The Gatwick Drone: Finally Someone Who Isn’t Us Asks Whether It Ever Really Existed

It’s taken two years, but finally it’s happened. Finally a respected national mass-media outlet has asked the question Hackaday were posing shortly after the event: what evidence was there that a drone was actually present in restricted airspace?

The Guardian newspaper in the UK is the outlet looking into the mystery of the Gatwick drone. It was the worldwide story of the moment around this time back in 2018 when the London airport closed down for several days in response to a series of drone reports. The assumption being put forward was that bad actors in the drone community were to blame, but there was significant disquiet in those ranks as the police and media story simply lacked credibility to anyone with knowledge of drones. At no point could they point to evidence that held water, the couple they arrested turned out to be innocent, and eventually a police officer admitted that there might not have been a drone after all. The damage had by then been done, as Received Opinion had it that irresponsible drone enthusiasts had put lives in danger and caused huge economic damage by closing an airport for several days.

The Guardian piece paints a fascinating and detailed picture of the events surrounding the investigation, by bringing the investigative journalism resources of a national newspaper into tracing and interviewing people involved from all sides. They talk to former Gatwick employees, off-the-record police officers with knowledge of the case, a drone specialist journalist, and the drone community including some of its members with significant professional experience in the world of aviation. It talks about the slow drip-feed of freedom of information requests revealing the machinations behind the scenes and furthermore the continuing lack of tangible proof of a drone. It’s very much worth a read, and we hope it will prompt further investigation of the events without the focus being on a non-existent drone.

We’d like to invite you to read Hackaday’s coverage from a few days after the event, and for an overview of the subject including the later Heathrow event, watch the CCCamp talk I presented on the topic in 2019. Then as now, our wish is for competent police investigations, responsible media reporting of drone stories, and credible official investigations of air proximity reports surrounding drones.

Header: Lucy Ingham, CC BY-SA 4.0.

70 thoughts on “The Gatwick Drone: Finally Someone Who Isn’t Us Asks Whether It Ever Really Existed

      1. The comments that were deleted were from “Anonymous” about the trustworthiness of the Guardian as a resource — but also included the paranoic “you can’t trust anything” line. You can read more of that below, if you like.

        Mostly we delete comments that are offensive, trolling, insane, or so wildly off-topic that they don’t contribute to the discussion.

        The deleted comments, and frankly some of those that we left, are borderline.

    1. I really wonder where the pressure is coming from, to make them to do this to themselves. Is it just the advertisers not wanting to be associated with anything slightly edgy, or do they genuinely think this will make people like the site more? Do they really believe the hacker demographic won’t notice the heavy-handed censorship going on? I understand deleting spam or pointless vulgarity, but it seems like they’re curating the conversation to just be an extension of the written article. Pointless IMO, if that’s the goal just be honest about it and disable the comments section.

    2. pr0 tip: count comments, compare to number displayed at the start of comment section:

      alert(isNaN(parseInt(document.getElementsByClassName(“comments-counts”)[0].textContent.replace(/[^\d]/g, “”))) ? 0 : parseInt(document.getElementsByClassName(“comments-counts”)[0].textContent.replace(/[^\d]/g, “”)) – document.querySelectorAll(‘.comment>article’).length +” hidden/censored”)

      either paste in console or write “javascript:” in URL bar and then paste it, cant paste javascript: directly because nanny state Google filters it out or url bar.

  1. Once more for posterity, since it got deleted the first time. This:

    “respected national mass-media outlet”

    is an oxymoron. Mass media is and always has been illegitimate.

    1. Just because you do not respect any national mass-media outlet does not mean that there are not people who do respect one or more.

      Your apparant inability to understand this is quite troubling.

      1. I understand just fine, but I’m not obligated to acknowledge people I disagree with; furthermore, not acknowledging them reduces their social capital, so it is in my best interest to pretend they don’t exist.

          1. Doesn’t matter. They’re one of those “I’m always right and you’re always wrong even when there’s evidence to prove I’m wrong” morons. Kinda like flat earthers.

    2. I think your a little off there, there has been ‘mass-media’ that deserved respect for the honest continued attempts to be fair minded and even to all sides of any debate. There will always be some bias as people are still human, and some perceived bias – as if they don’t say what you wanted that is clearly bias isn’t it!

      The BBC has gone down-hill in that regard, but is still one of the best as at least it properly and promptly issues corrections and apologies when something is erroneous. Though they do a great job on not mentioning a great many things they really should report on these days…

      The biggest problem with most news outlets is their only goal is to get money, lots of it… So there has been a trend to sensationalise and throw in lots of ‘click-bait’ to get views, and often targeting what is reported to a particular demographic, both in how the news is portrayed and what is ‘newsworthy’.

      But that doesn’t make even the worst of those mass-media outlets illegitimate, as on the whole they still actually have to report real facts, no matter how much they try to skew it (at least in the ‘free’ world where the contradictory evidence is easy to find if it exists) – so if you look through a variety of sources you might get something like the full picture. Pick the right single source you might even get it first time, though if you don’t look at any other publications you can’t see what facts were omitted, so how can you be even remotely sure?

      1. The problem isn’t usually that they publish lies (although this does happen occasionally). The problem is that there are a million events happening in the world at any given moment, so the particular selection of events that a media organization reports on is usually chosen in pursuit of a particular agenda. If you see something on the news, you think about it; whether you agree or not is immaterial. The point is that they have successfully redirected your thoughts to a subject of their choosing.

        Furthermore, it is impossible to show “all sides” of a debate because there are an infinite number of possible “sides”. In reality, they choose to represent two or three opinions and use these to frame the public discussion around an event, with all other opinions becoming implicitly “off-limits” via omission. So now you’re not only thinking about what they want you to think about, but your choice of thoughts is provided to you as well.

        In practice, it’s unironically better to get your news from a variety of openly-partisan sources rather than one ostensibly-neutral source, because at least in the former scenario you can take their biases into account beforehand, and your daily life isn’t being saturated by supposedly neutral content. No person or organization is ever unbiased; if someone says they are, they are lying to you, and I’d rather not get my news from liars.

        1. ‘In practice, it’s unironically better to …’ categorically proves mass media is legitimate and useful, when sources of dubious trustworthiness and obvious agendas is still useful.

        2. Anonymous says this – “If you see something on the news, you think about it; whether you agree or not is immaterial. The point is that they have successfully redirected your thoughts to a subject of their choosing.” — Since I read it slowly as you suggested — I came up with this. Are you not doing exactly the same thing ? You are trying to redirect people’s thoughts to a subject of your choosing. .. . I will read what I want and listen to what I want and make up my own mind on what I believe or disbelieve. I dont need you to tell me anything on who, what, when, where to think about anything. I make up my own mind. Instead of you trying to spread your agenda, why dont you get off the couch and change the world if you know everything about everything and how its done. .. . No matter what you reply, it will remain the same. You are doing exactly what you say is wrong. To redirect peoples thoughts to your choosing.

          1. His point is that very few people have original ideas, and doubly so because they have no original information, only second hand commentary. That is why the mass media, or any media, cannot help but frame things so that “free thinkers” such as yourself can only freely think along certain lines that you are exposed to and what is available to you.

            For the same reason, information outlets that deem themselves “neutral” are not so because they cannot do any better. Everybody is both mislead, and misleading by picking and choosing the information they pass along, assuming they didn’t just make it up in the first place.

            The problem is the people who define themselves neutral, because they are doing so to assume authority to define reality as they want you to see it by dressing it up as objective truth. They have an agenda in pretending they don’t have an agenda or a point of view, which makes them double liars.

          2. Dude says ” “free thinkers” such as yourself can only freely think along certain lines that you are exposed to and what is available to you. ” Here we go again with someone assuming that my free thinking is that I rely on media to give me all my info.. What a joke. . The same as I said above, Dude is saying nothing original either yet, tries to come across as a know it all. Dudes words have been said for many , many years. Nothing original, just re hashed same old story. .. So again my point is made. People trying to get others to believe in what they believe is as bad as the media doing the same thing. . Like dude said, they all have an agenda. Sounds to me that your agenda is to make me believe in what you think is right, wrong or otherwise. My question is this, how do I know that dude is not misleading me into choosing his information to change my way of thinking when he could just be making it all up himself and pretending to not have an agenda which makes dude a “Double Liar” ?
            I think for myself and make my own judgement calls in life. Some people are wrong and some people are right and its up to each of us to make the best choice that we can in any situation and hope we make the right call.
            The only sheep in this world are the ones who believe there is only one way without using their own brain.
            People who insist on telling others its this way or that way only, is doing nothing but keeping people down and not allowing them to make their own choices.
            Everyone make mistakes in life and thats called learning.
            If you believe that its all just one way and no other way, you are no better than the quote misleading media.
            Dude should try to do better and come up with something that is new and original but, like he said no one can do any better. ..
            Live life everyone, to the fullest. The best way you can. Make up your own mind, if you like your choice, great. If not, change it.
            What is right for some is not right for others, what else is new.
            Life is never one way one, and it never will be.
            Be smart, choose your own way and if that makes you happy, even better.

            The problem in this world, is too many people trying to get others to believe that their way is the only right way.
            Make your own way everyone, freewill, free thinking, free choices.
            Its each of our lives and our life only. What you choose to do with it is up to you as an individual.
            BE proud of who you are, and do good things in life to make this a better time while we have it.
            This place could be so much better, if we all just do better for ourselves and to others.
            Peace to all and a much better new year.

          3. >What a joke.

            Then where do you get your information. Out of your behind?

            >how do I know that dude is not misleading me into choosing his information

            Here’s the thing: you can not but think for yourself. I cannot make you think anything you don’t want to believe, all I or anyone can do is limit what information is presented to you, to constrain your thought by omission. Selective presentation of facts is what this whole critique is about: to believe that anyone is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is up to you. I am merely warning you that this may not be the case.

          4. Dude asks “Where do you get your information, out of your behind?”

            I get my info from everything around me. I watch, I listen, I read, I take advice, I educate myself through learning everything I can get my hands on. I research as much as I can on every subject that draws my attention to it. I have never accepted one answer for anything because there are countless explanations to derive from. Some things might not make sense but is the most logical solution, and at the same time what might work for some, does not work for others. Does that make the answer wrong? No, it depends on the situation at the time.
            The world is a vast place of knowledge and information and those who don’t take advantage of that fact is single minded, and again, does that make them wrong? No. Why? Because it works for them at the time. So do I get my info from my behind ? No, but I have studied human biology enough to understand the workings of it.

            Dude says ” Here’s the thing: you can not but think for yourself. I cannot make you think anything you don’t want to believe, all I or anyone can do is limit what information is presented to you, to constrain your thought by omission. Selective presentation of facts is what this whole critique is about: to believe that anyone is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is up to you. I am merely warning you that this may not be the case. ”

            You might not be able to make me or anyone believe what they dont want to but, It can be and has been done. Should we talk world history ? Should we talk communism ? Should we talk of religious cults ? There have been many times that people who did not believe in something were made to believe in another ideal, beit threats, intimidation, lies, money, and so on.
            Anyone who limits anyone information is nothing better than a scared tyrant throwing a tantrum to suppress the truth to maintain order and obedience, to get their way a keep control.

            Sometimes selective presentation is a good thing. Sometimes it is better for some not to know certain things if that means creating a worse scenario or a hurtful situation that someone does need to deal with at a certain time.
            I don’t ever think that the whole truth is ever said by anyone. There in my experience is always something either left out or put in to a story or facts that changes the actual event, even if just by a fraction. People see things, they way they see them. Never the same as anyone else, we all observe, take in, feel or tell a story slightly different than others, some blow things so far apart that the story can no way be factual of any kind, and so is the opposite, the truth can be so damaging that it destroys people for years, and that is when selective presentation should be used, when you know a person or events cant handle the facts.

            I said ” Dudes words have been said for many , many years. Nothing original, just re hashed same old story ”
            Dude asks ” And that makes it invalid because? ”

            Its not that it is invalid, its that it needs not to be heard anymore.
            You say there is no originality, you’re right.
            So why do you use something that is not original in thinking ? Why dont you come up with something on your own that know one has ever heard?
            This is what the world need right now, more originality, new ways of thinking for the future of all of humanity. Certain ideals and thinking that was thought of years and years ago, worked then. They dont apply to what the world is now. The world is stagnant because of laws and rules and information is repeated from times of old. The world seems to always repeat mistakes that we should of learned from but because of greed and people with power dictate things that keep us all the same as long ago. As much as this world needs to change, it will not happen until we burn it down and exhaust every resource to fill the pockets of the rich and powerful and its allowed because the words of old dont change, we never learn, we repeat and then wonder why it happened, then stand up and fight for things to change until it gets old and the powerful ignore us and it just vanishes until the next big mistake, and then we repeat.
            They say things are to expensive, to hard or cant be done, no its not. The powerful dont like change, so it doesnt happen.
            This is why we need originality, not the same old story. We keep repeating the same stuff over and over again, we will have no future.
            We need to stop this, we need to have “new blood” in charge, original ideals and thinking brought forward and stand up to the powerful make them change, make this world a better place for all. Stop destroying our planet so our grandchildren’s children cant enjoy it.
            We new new originality, new ways of doing things, new laws, new constitutions that are relevant to today. Not get rid of them but re write them to adapt them to today and tomorrow.
            Again, you are not invalid by what you say, but its old and nothing new.
            The world needs new.

            We are who we are and that is ok, no matter what colour, religious belief, nationality, or whatever you may be.
            But if we dont change our ways, and look to the future and what needs to be done now. All of the censorship, conspiracy theories, lies, truth, religion, media and everything we know of and complain about.

            Will be no longer.

            There is no need to warn myself and many others of what might not be the case.
            We are very, very aware of that fact.

      2. “The biggest problem with most news outlets is their only goal is to get money, lots of it…”

        And that is what led to the Great Christmas Gift Drone Apocalypse Hysteria of 2015 in the US which fooled even most in the RC aircraft hobby into complying with the registration of themselves (not their aircraft as is constantly misreported) with the federal government and THAT was the proverbial foot in the door. The public imagining of airliners plummeting out of the sky thanks to collisions with drones was encouraged and the FAA gave projected holiday sales figures for drones in the US at a million at one point, failing to mention that the vast majority of those sales would be tiny, cheap quads meant to be flown indoors.

        If one investigated the background reason for the sudden official hysteria at the time as I did one found that official concern found in reports available on the internet were all about the intentional misuse of drones for bad things you can easily image and not about the statistically provable to be picoscopic odds of an accidental drone collision with a manned aircraft or about the less than picoscopic amount of annual problems which would be cause by that in comparison to bird strikes:

        FAA REport: Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft in the United States, 1990–2014
        [by the way, the FAA link I have to this large PDF report no longer works and the last version of this I can’t find online now, but luckily already have a PDF of covered only up to 2015, the year drone registration began]

        Table 22: Number of reported wildlife strikes indicating damage, a negative effect-on-flight (EOF),
        aircraft downtime, repair costs, and other costs, 1990 – 2014 = 38,759

        38,759 incidents/25 years = 1550/year resulting in damage, a negative effect-on-flight (EOF),
        aircraft downtime, repair costs, and other costs

        Page xiv – the number of strikes reported to the FAA in 2014 = 13,668

        13,668/1550 = 1 in every 8.82 wildlife strikes results in damage, a negative effect-on-flight (EOF),
        aircraft downtime, repair costs, or other costs.

        1550 damaging strikes/year/365days/year = 4.1 damaging strikes per day

        13,668 strikes/year/365days/year = 37.4 strikes per day

        1. By the way, go here:

          Homeland Security Digital Library

          download and read as I did at the time [but from a now dead FAA web page link] this hilariously pulled-out-of-their-ass, so easy to tear apart report which led to the 250g limit in the US which other nations then blindly copied:

          Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Registration Task Force (RTF), Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC): Task Force Recommendations Final Report

        2. Also, to understand what the rush to RC pilot registration in the US was actually all about, note that ALL RC flying was shut down for everyone, registered or not, everywhere within 30 MILES of Washington DC and ONLY Washington DC immediately after RC pilot registration went into effect.

    3. The Guardian, who helped Edward Snowden break his story, are illegitimate how?

      Just because they can’t always spell things right, they’re still one of the more credible news outlets in the UK.

      1. Guardian has a strong but clear left-wing bias, but they’re not hiding it under claims of “impartiality” like some of our news sources in the U.K. they also do good quality reporting. Glad to see they ran this story, though it’s probably too little too late for the drone community.

      2. Exactly, the Grauniad has had spelling problems since the days when it was the Manchester Guardian, but that has never detracted from its reputation for highly professional news reporting.

    4. This is the UK, and the Guardian is one of our more respectable newspapers. It has a broadly left-leaning view, just as for instance the Telegraph has a right-leaning view.
      Personally I don’t like some of its columnists, but it still merits the term “respected”.

      So yes. I stand by that phrase.

  2. For anyone whos outside the UK and not aware…. The Gatwick Drone incident introduced plenty of draconian laws to limit the use and sale and ownership of drones in the UK… Near to such a degree that it has all but killed the hobby.

    And all this…. Based on a lie.

    1. That is assuming it was a lie, not simple human error – Pilots have been seeing odd things for as long as people have been flying. That then gets blown out of all proportion and takes on a life of its own through yet more human errors…

      Still disappointing response, complete lack of evidence, statements that were rather less than believable based on multi rotor capabilities… But lets go ahead and throw red tape at the almost certainly innocent tool/toy and its users…

      1. Years ago, if pilots saw something weird, they called it a bird, russkie spy plane, or UFO. People are generally familiar with the flight capabilities of birds, so easily discarded most of these absurd stories. UFOs similarly got laughed off.
        These days, if a pilot sees something weird, they shout “drone!”, and people with no feel for drone capabilities easily believe that consumer drones are keeping pace with cruising passenger jets etc.

        1. Indeed, not that I can blame pilots for spotting things erroneously or not noticing its clearly a bird – there is so too much to keep track of -especially when getting nearer the ground and people are terrible at multi-tasking that well. They see something which they don’t put much effort into identifying before its lost again – as quite rightly its not highest on their list of priorities.

          Hopefully some degree of sense will percolate at some point, so when they shout drone its just as ignored as UFO is, particularly when its impossible or damn nearly for a drone to be or do whatever…

    1. No more so than the Telegraph, and certainly less than the Daily Heil.

      It’s a bit left of centre, which attracts a lot of noisy right whingers, like anything that isn’t authoritarian.

      But it’s generally well respected.

  3. Fairly long article (the guardian article), but a good read. I find it *really* interesting (dissapointing) that almost all of the Freedom Of Information requests made regarding this incident resulted in ‘no response’ (not even a courtesy reply).

    FOI? There is no such thing.

  4. Has anyone ever tested “Drone vs Aircraft” ?
    Unless the drone is sucked in to the engine I would imagine the damage would be somewhat minimal given the way a drone fly’s.

    Anyone having flown anyting will be well aware of what ground effect is. When your drone is pushing out air below it in order to stay flying and if it comes near the front end of an aircraft somewhere around the wondscreen area its going to want to push off from that surface.

    If it hits something like the under carrage I doubt that the lightwieght propellers are going to have much of an impact on the fuselage and will end up snapping and the drone falling to its demise.

    Being sucked in to a jet engine would cause a few issues in the engine that got hit but bird strike causes some prety significant damage as well.

    1. Ground effect isn’t even vaguely relevant with the speed differentials involved.

      You’re not hovering over a stationary plane, and ground effect isn’t nearly strong enough to bounce you off of a surface approaching at the speed that even the floatiest small planes fly at.

      it’s not damage from the spinning props on the drone, etc, that is even a concern, it’s more that a 1kg mass being hit by a plane moving 100km/h is a pretty significant impact.

      Yes, that could cause damage, and even if it’s unlikely to be any worse than birds, etc, it’s not really a valid argument IMO, to say that a collision would be inconsequential.

      I think what’s more useful to focus on, if you want to avoid stupid overprotective RC aircraft laws is simply that likelyhood of unintentional collisions with aircraft is near zero if you stay at reasonable altitudes, and aren’t flying directly in front of a runway. The chances can be further reduced by simply having a spotter. When I’m flying, I’ve always got a friend there who will warn me of anything I should avoid. “There’s someone walking their dog at the far end of the field”, “There’s a plane approaching on the horizon”, etc.

      And if you are worried about people flying in very obviously dumb places, or intentionally hitting aircraft, it’s probably significantly more difficult than you would expect, and regardless, more restrictions won’t solve this.

      If you’re the kind of person who’s going to intentionally attempt to endanger/hurt people with a drone, you’re not going to be concerned with following the rules anyway. The only people who are going to follow the laws are the people who are already flying safely, and not causing dangerous situations.

      In general, if you’re flying in a place where you’re a danger to aircraft, you’re probably already breaking laws. Making it “more illegal” isn’t going to accomplish anything.

  5. Because of stories like these (granted some are true), we have the same problems over here (US). Our model aircraft are now ‘classified’ as drones and fall under that umbrella. Really causes us some headaches to deal with. All we just want is to be left alone at our club ‘field’ and fly around the ‘patch’, or find a nice slope to slope soar…. But keep under the ‘radar’ so to speak… But no… Now anyone can fly with the electronics they have in them now (if you call moving a quadcopter around ‘flying’) and when high profile ‘events’ happen, we get lumped in.

    Above story, really brings to light how ‘media’ can really influence politics and our thought. They can put something out there as a headline and that is what (some) people will remember even to point of legislative ‘action’ … even if they ‘retract’ the story (on page 10, down in a corner) later — days, months, years when it doesn’t really matter anymore. To bad ‘news’ has be ‘entertainment’ instead of just report the boring facts (with no political bias or agenda)…

        1. “They” should read a few history books.

          Censorship in every..single..time is symptom of a deeper problem and forecast of dark times. I sincerely hope you never have to live in that world.

          1. The same attitude that permits one to censor “outrageously false and offensive things” is what allows one to exclude actual truth that becomes ideologically and factually inconvenient.

            The point of censorship in the first place is that you yourself believe the claim to be false, but you are afraid that other people will be compelled to believe it. This becomes the more urgent when you have no compelling counter-argument against it.

    1. This was also fueled by the fact that drones are not very popular among non-hobbyist. I have nothing against drones in general but find it annoying to encounter a noisy one while hiking in the mountains where one would expect peace and opportunities to spot fauna.
      There are only few disrespectful individuals but this creates a bias in the public opinion which enables the media to make things bigger than they are. All of that for more clicks.

      1. What? Has this really happened to you?

        I can imagine it would happen in something like a metropark where there are lots of people around, more chances that one of them has a drone. But I wouldn’t go to a place with a lot of people expecting to be all alone either.

        I would think one would have to be absurdly unlucky to go into the wilderness looking for a quiet place and run into a drone. And if you did why not just walk away? Surely there is enough wilderness for everyone to enjoy in their own way, both drone operator and hiker!

        1. Yes indeed it really happened. Of course you can walk away, it’s a hike. But usually they stop where you stop to also take picture of whatever is there: lake, cliff etc. My issue is more about the general sense of disrespect in places like this.

        2. Well, as someone who is both a RC hobbyist, and hiker, I’ve run into it plenty, as well.

          I’m not at all bothered by the fact that someone’s taking video with their drone, etc, but I have often seen them flown unsafely. I once had a 3″ propped quad flying past around 10′ away from me. I told the kids flying it that they should not be flying around a trail where people and animals could be walking, who might not find it as funny as they do.

          I wasn’t a jerk about it, I just suggested that they should move far enough away from the trail that they’re not going to be bothering anyone, and won’t hit anyone if they crash.

          There’s two kinds of RC pilots who are a problem. Ones who don’t know if they’re being unsafe, and the people who just don’t care that they’re being unsafe.

          Tighter restrictions don’t solve either. The first group just need to be educated on what the actual real world dangers are (scaring/hitting people, chopping hands in props, animals freaking out and/or trying to attack the drone, etc), and they’ll likely play nice. Telling them that they shouldn’t fly their new toy, because you don’t like it is just going to make them ignore whatever rules you point to.yeah
          The people who don’t care that they’re breaking the rules aren’t going to start following them just because they’re more restrictive.

  6. Weren’t the police also flying a drone in the area and that caused area residents to report seeing a drone. I’m pretty sure the stories about the police flying a drone to find a drone are out there somewhere. Dont know how they thought they could find a drone with a drone and its why I laughed when I read that article!

  7. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to mention books on here, but really enjoyed reading Fake Law recently, which focuses around the legislation borne of the sensationalism around various legal cases in the media.

    TLDR: A lot of ministers want to leave their mark, and push through some kind of legislation against their name whether or not they understand the statistics and the mechanics behind the issue at hand. Politics is as bad as the media, you’re paying people way under the going rate in the private sector to push some pretty impact policy in some cases – I can’t believe they’re all that altruistic.

  8. I appreciate HaD following up on this. Thanks for the continued interest.

    Also, it looks like agencies that wanted specific legislative changes for what they perceived as a safety issue pounced when the matter reared it’s head. Never letting a good disaster, even if only perceived, go to waste.

    It’d be nice if that wasn’t how safety legislation worked. But with lots of people involved it does, even without headline news.

  9. 737 pilot on airliners vs. drones:

    Airliners vs Drones: Calm Down


    Much ado has been produced by the media about the hazards of drones flying in proximity to airliners, but I’m happy to report: it’s much ado about nothing.

    The hazard presented by unwanted objects in an aircraft’s flight path is nothing new. In fact, each year hundreds of bird strikes are dutifully and without fanfare reported by airline pilots as is required by law.

    (Actually, there were 13,795 bird strike reports made in the US in 2015 alone):

    What’s new is the opportunity for media and aviation “pundits” to claim more screaming headlines by overstating the drone hazard.

    First, consider the typical, average weight of the plentiful waterfowl populating the bird sanctuaries neighboring JFK, LGA, ORD, DFW, SEA, PDX, LAX, SAN, DCA, SFO, BOS and most Florida airports to name but a few. The weight varies from the 10-13 pound goose to the heavier seabirds like pelican which can weigh up to 30 pounds.

    Although the the media and some wannabe aviation pundits claim there are “drones of 50-60 pounds,” the fact is, the new, popular hobbyist drones are marvels of lightweight miniaturization, weighing a fraction of that.

    Now, consider the exposure: while the new hobbyist drones begin to enjoy an increasing level of retail sales, the bird hazard numbers literally in the millions. By sheer numbers alone, bird conflicts and even bird strikes dwarf the number of drone “sightings” by airliners, but they’re simply no longer news.

    Plainly stated, the traveling public – and thus the media – understand the exposure, accept it, and like the National Highway Traffic Safety traffic death toll, ignore it.

    Trundle out the “new menace” of drones and heads turn, headlines accrue, news ratings uptick, and those who know little about jetliners begin to smell fear.

  10. And, conveniently for this discussion, a brand new article about the real reason why you are required to register and the real reason behind RC aircraft regulations worldwide. It’s not about the statistically provable to be picoscopic odds of any significant number of accidental collisions with manned aircraft:

    Here’s What’s In New Guidelines For Defending Infrastructure Against Drone Attacks
    The guidelines focus on how to better harden sensitive facilities against drone attacks without high-end anti-drone technologies.
    7 Dec 2020

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, recently published a report titled “Protecting Against the Threat of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).” The report comes nearly a year after a string of bizarre “mystery drone” sightings across the American Midwest which remain unexplained to this day. While it does not mention any specific incidents, this new CISA report provides an overview of the growing UAS threat and offers vulnerability assessments and recommendations on how critical infrastructure can be defended against unmanned threats from above.

    Unlike many discussions of counter-UAS (C-UAS) approaches, the document does not describe any technologies or methods for jamming or disabling drones, but instead focuses on ways to mitigate the risk of drone attacks without specialized equipment. Recent incidents, such as last year’s mysterious drone incursions over the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona, underscore just how serious this threat can be and why security forces at sensitive sites need to take heed.

    1. And I’m sure that the people who are planning attacks using drones are going to voluntarily register them, and write their name and phone number on the bottom.

      It doesn’t really matter what the potential dangers are. Once a technology is out there, you can’t keep malicious users from doing what they want with it. Adding a bunch of regulation/restriction/registration, etc just dumps on hobbyists without accomplishing anything.

  11. Goodbye then. You agree to the tos when you submit a comment. Commenting on a site is a privilege not a right. When you pay for the bandwidth you can make the rules, but until then you are subject the someone else’s just like everyone else.

    1. >When you pay for the bandwidth you can make the rules

      Technically we pay for the bandwidth, because the site is ad-funded and we’re all forced to pay the cost of advertising whether we want it or not – even regardless of whether we view the site or not.

      1. This is true. We all have a right to vote on a ToS. If we find it objectionable, we leave. If this troubles the people providing the content, they adjust the ToS. There’s no comment that anyone can make that has quite the effect of a site operator seeing the pageview numbers fall off a cliff.

        That being so, I’ve always found activist or objectionist comments to be counterproductive. At best, they could make someone think about an issue. But normally, anyone who is prone to do so has already done so without the prompting, and the comments simply serve to increase the future odds that people will find the topic and viewpoint repulsive.

        In other words, it’s singing to the choir at best, and undermining the chances of future discussion of the topic at worst.

        Sometimes, when every option is bad one, the best choice is to freeze, and do _nothing_.

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