Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Delhi Airport Drone Incident: Lack of clear policy widens security loopholes

New Delhi: On Sunday evening during peak flight hours, after pilots of an aircraft landing into Delhi spotted an object flying close to the aircraft, the Indira Gandhi International Airport here was brought to a grinding halt for 45 minutes with all three runways being shut as a “precautionary measure”. The result was that at least 35 flights were affected during the period as departures were stopped, and incoming aircraft were asked to hold or divert. Experts suggest that the incident comes as a wakeup call for the authorities, considering there are no policies or legal provisions in place to deal with unmanned aircraft systems, or drones.
Post the incident on Sunday, AirAsia India issued a statement saying its pilots spotted “an unidentified object flying close to the aircraft while landing into runway 11”. Mark D Martin, CEO of aviation consultancy firm Martin Consulting highlighted the concern of lack of any clarity on drones pointing out that the pilots had to report spotting of an “unidentified object” and not a drone, because of which red flags were raised, with enforcement agencies shutting down the airport as a precautionary measure.
“The incident was a wake-up call, and the government needs to take active steps to resolve this. Given the way things are right now, it is certainly alarming, but it’s not as catastrophic as other threats affecting the airspace. Do we shut down an airport when there’s a bird strike? At most, the airport being shut down was precautionary in nature so as to not allow things to get catastrophic,” Martin said.
India’s tryst with policies on drones started in 2014 when a Mumbai-based pizza restaurant used a small drone to make pizza deliveries. Following the incident, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation imposed a blanket ban on use of drones by civilians, but in April 2016, it floated the draft ‘Guidelines for obtaining Unique Identification Number (UIN) & Operation of Civil Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)’. More than a year later, these rules are yet to be finalised. Flight operations suspended at Delhi airport after ‘drone-like object’ spotted on runway. Click here to read.
23/08/17 Pranav Mukul/Indian Express