It seems these days when one hears about aircrafts and drones in the same sentence, it usually means trouble. Incidents in the past few years have involved drones nearly colliding with aircrafts filled with people. So who gets the blame in all this? The governing bodies that create the regulations for drones? The owners who navigate the drones haphazardly in critical airspaces? The problem is all but resolved as another incident has occurred. This time, it happened in New Zealand.
The drone incident was critical enough that flights diverted to other airports. The drone in question flew around the Auckland Airport. This lead to the flight, an Air New Zealand (Tokyo – Auckland) diverting to another field. The plane ended up landing at the Ohakea Air Force base in Palmerston North. The base was about 500 kilometers away from its original landing spot. The plane used the location to refuel and reassess the situation at the other airport. Other aircrafts had to check with air traffic control as well. Over 20 aircrafts circled the area before getting confirmation to land in the airport.
Reports have indicated that the drone flew and remained near the airspace and caution suggested that the plane reroute. The drone caught the pilots’ eyes and alerted the proper authorities while still in the air. Police took notice and a helicopter arrived in the incident some time later. The drone and its navigator had been long gone before the police showed up.
As protocol states, civilian drones are only limited to 400 feet off the ground. The UAV must also be within the sight of the navigator for the entire flight time. Drones are also not allowed to fly near airspaces and landing bays. The major threat these drones have is that an aircraft may be running low on fuel. This would lessen the chances of the plane diverting to a different aircraft. Again it seems that it was mere luck that made this drone incident absent of damage or injury. The plane had enough fuel to travel an extra 500 kilometers off its route. The pilots should also be applauded for their vigilance in spotting the drone before any contact was made.