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Drones cause record number of air traffic disruptions in Germany

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Drones cause record number of air traffic disruptions in Germany
Drones in Hesse. Photo: DPA
11:49 CET+01:00
Drones resulted in 158 disruptions to air traffic in Germany last year - an 80 percent increase from 2017.

German Air Traffic Control (DFS) bosses reported that most of the incidents occurred at Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt, where 31 incidents were logged.

That was followed by Berlin-Tegel (17), Munich (14) and Hamburg (12). In 2017, a total of 88 cases were reported, while in 2016 there were 64 incidents. 

The graphic shows the reported obstructions near airports due to drones in 2018. Graphic: DPA

Is flying a drone legal?

Flying a drone is legal in Germany but strict rules must be followed. Drone flights over areas such as take-off and landing runways at airports are prohibited.

Drones are also not allowed to be flown over crowds, hospitals, prisons, government buildings, federal highways and railways. Drone operators must also keep their device within sight during the flight and not fly higher than 100 metres. There are exceptions at model airfields.

Control zones around German airports where drones cannot be flown can be viewed on the maps here.

The devices pose a major security risk. If they collide with an aircraft, they can damage its hull or engine. The main problem for air traffic control is that threats are not visible on the radar, DFS spokeswoman Ute Otterbein told the Hessenschau.

The figures are therefore based on information from pilots who report a drone sighting to the air traffic controllers.

Otterbein said there had been no major incidents involving drones in Frankfurt. However, last summer take-offs and landings were blocked for several minutes following the sighting of a drone. The reaction to drone sightings is decided on a case by case basis, depending on the perceived risk. 

More measures

The Federal Association of the German Air Transport Industry (BDL) called for more safety measures.

"We consider it necessary for drones and their owners to be subject to compulsory registration so that responsibility can be clearly assigned," said BDL boss Matthias von Randow.

Drones should also be equipped with technology, such as a transponder, that makes them identifiable to authorities and other aircrafts.

Huge disruption

The announcement in Germany follows a huge flight disruption which hit passengers across Europe in the run up to Christmas when Gatwick airport near London reported sightings of drones close to the airport.

About 140,000 people were affected by flight disruptions between December 19th and 21st as Gatwick shut its runway amid safety and security fears.

Two people were arrested in connection with the drone sightings but later released without charge.

 
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