'A considerable risk': Germany plans to protect its airports from drones

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'A considerable risk': Germany plans to protect its airports from drones
Archive photo shows a drone and an aeroplane. Photo: DPA

Responding to a growing number of drone disturbances at airports, Germany is looking into expanding its prohibition zone for the flying robots.


The Federal Ministry of Transport has commissioned the German Air Traffic Control (DFS) to draw up an action plan, according to a report on Monday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung

The authority, which monitors the airspace for commercial aircrafts, is now also being tasked with "systematic drone detection" at airports. 

"From the point of view of the Ministry of Transport, the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles near airports poses a considerable risk to the safety of flight operations,” DFS explained to newspaper.

The Ministry says it's reacting to a spike in drone sightings in the "immediate vicinity of airports."

It's also looking to take action after "recent events in which unmanned aerial vehicles have even temporarily brought traffic at airports to a standstill," such as in Frankfurt in May when a drone shut down air traffic for an hour.

The deadline to submit the plan is September 30th.

SEE ALSO: 143 flights cancelled at Frankfurt airport due to drone sightings

Rules already in place

Currently drones are not allowed to fly within 1.5 kilometres of Germany’s airports. Air traffic control is already able to monitor an area up to 1,300 metres above sea level.

It is also forbidden to fly over major traffic routes, public buildings, industrial facilities, prisons, military facilities or rescue operations. 

Drones are nevertheless increasingly endangering flight safety, according to air traffic control. In 2018, 158 cases were reported in which airplane pilots felt concerned by a drone - 80 percent more incidents than in the previous year. 

Frankfurt Airport had the highest number with 31, followed by Berlin Tegel with 17 and Munich with 14 incidents.

Yet in the first half of 2019, the number stood at only 70 disruptions.

SEE ALSO: Drones cause record number of disruptions in Germany

While drones have already brought flight traffic to a halt in other part's of Europe - for example at London’s Gatwick Airport in December - such an incident had not not occurred in Germany until May this year. 

Incoming and outcoming flights at Frankfurt Airport were completely put on hold for an hour due to the unidentified flying object of circulating in the air.

Federal or state police are responsible for bringing drones out of the sky in critical situations, though it is still unclear who would pay for such missions, reported the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Difficult to detect

Typically the small drones, which travel up to 100 kilometre per hour, are difficult to detect by radar. Thoughtless hobby pilots, criminals or terrorists could cause enormous damage with the flying objects. 

According to studies, there are almost 500,000 private and commercial drones in Germany, yet no official drone defence system has been put in place.

So far, authorities have not been able to do much. Once drones are in the air, they go undetected by aircraft radar,

Furthermore, a drone registration system - or a radio signal so that authorities can quickly and electronically check who the drone belongs to - is not yet available.

Yet this could soon change in Germany. 

"A reliable technology, which is not yet available on the market, has to be procured - especially for the detection of uncooperative drones," said DSF.

Experts are considering new radar monitoring, the installation of so-called jamming transmitters that force drones to turn off, or the installation of sensors which pick up signals from the drone's remote control.


Drones - (die) Drohnen

Unidentified flying objects - (die) unbekannte Flugobjekte

Defence system - (die) Abwehrsystem

The remote control - (die) Fernsteuerung

Reliable - zuverlässig

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