Dubai airport, the third busiest in the world, has already been forced to shut four times this year because of unauthorized drone activity, creating a headache for airlines and their passengers.
The most recent closure lasted for 90 minutes on Oct. 29, in which 22 flights had to be diverted to other airports. Each shutdown costs the airport approximately $1 million a minute.
Dubai’s Civil Aviation Authority has responded by testing a ‘drone hunter’. This remote-controlled aircraft has thermal and infrared imaging to detect drones that are in danger of entering into the airport’s space. How does it work? Once it locates a rogue drone, it follows it back to its launch point, then relays the location to police. No offensive weapons are necessary.
If the trial deployments prove successful, if could be in use routinely by the end of the year.
“It’s a few people that engage in this kind of activity. People want to explore how far their drone can go without realizing they are violating the airspace,” said Salim Al Mansouri, senior aerodrome inspector at the civil aviation authority.
“It’s a safety issue and people are losing money because of one person’s irresponsible behavior,” he said.
Other airports have taken different measures to tracking rogue drones — in the Netherlands, trained bald eagles are used to detect and dispose of unwanted drones. As more drones share the skies with planes, there are greater concerns.
In April, a suspected drone hit a plane as it was coming into Heathrow in London. The Airbus A320 landed safely.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says reports of near misses with drones and airplanes have increased dramatically since 2014. In the five months ending January 31, there were 583 such incidents.
Since then, new rules regarding drone use has been introduced in hope of reducing the amount of incidents.