Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Rising Issue: Drones and their Interference with Air Traffic

Drones are probably used most frequently by hobbyists who fly their drones for fun and make cool videos by using the video capabilities of their drones.  While this may seem like a harmless hobby, the FAA has reported that there has been a number of close encounters between drones and actual air traffic.  The threat of collisions between drones and airplanes has resulted in the creation of the Digital Notice and Awareness System (D-NAS).  D-NAS is a way for air traffic control and drone users to be able to monitor a drone's location and to see whether or not it poses a threat to nearby airplanes.  The system was developed by a start-up called AirMap, and can be accessed through the apps of the various drone manufacturers.  

An article from the Washington Post outlines that D-NAS works by having drone users input their drone's flight radius as well as the intended flight time.  The system will then take this data and send it to air traffic control at nearby airports to help the airports keep track of how many drones are in the area and whether or not they pose a threat to aircraft.  Another added benefit that the article points out is that D-NAS allows drone users and air traffic control to view a map that points out exactly where drones are flying in real time.  In addition to real-time monitoring drones, D-NAS will also store that drone's location to track the patterns of drone flights around specific airports.  The article mentions one particular air traffic safety manager that said he would be able to analyze the data so that he could see the most popular locations for flying drones and use that as a basis for where to post caution signs.

While the article mentions that there have been, "764 drone sightings near airplanes in 2015", it does not expand on this and leaves me wondering just how big of a problem these drones are for planes anyway.  First, how frequent do incidents involving drones and planes occur? Second, how serious of a problem could it be if a drone and a plane were to collide?  A different article from the Washington Post notes that there were 25 truly serious incidents where a drone and a plane came within only a few seconds or feet of colliding, and that there were about 176 total incidents from June 2015 to November 2015.  As to the severity of a drone-plane collision, many aviation safety experts have stated that if a drone were to be sucked into a jet engine or even collides with a plane's propeller then the damage could be catastrophic.  I think one major aspect that has been largely overlooked is that drones in general are mostly unregulated.  While there are some restricted drone flying areas, they can be very difficult to enforce.  By tracking a drone's location, D-NAS allows air traffic control the ability to better monitor their restricted areas.

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  1. Perhaps the FAA could suggest the creation of distributed airspace before a major accident occurs. There could be special low fly zones designated for drones. Maybe limiting flight to certain altitudes at certain hours could make both parties happy and safe.

  2. Its interesting to hear that drones are effecting air traffic because they seem so small compared to most airplanes. While it is obviously dangerous for an airplane to hit anything, I wouldn't think small drones would fly high enough to obstruct air traffic. D-NAS seems like an effective and innovative way to reduce the problems associated with drone use. It is interesting to read the last paragraph of your post because I would never think of drones being able to cause serious damage. As Judah mentioned in his comment, I think it would be good to set up fly zones for drones or limit them to flying at lower altitudes than planes.

  3. This was a very interesting blog to read. I found it interesting how drones actually do interfere with air traffic, being that they are so small compared to other things such as airplanes and helicopters. How often do we even hear about a plane and drone collision or accident? In my case, I never really knew that this type of collision actually occurred until I read this blog.
    I like how D-NAS is able to use real-time monitoring because I think this is very beneficial for air traffic controllers to be able to locate where drones and other objects are currently moving. However, although I think it is helpful how they have D-NAS to locate drones, I think something that would be more beneficial would be to have designated areas for drones or only let them be allowed to fly to a certain altitude. This way, accidents or collisions between planes could be avoided since drones would not be interfering or flying in the in the way of the planes.
    On the other hand, is it even possible for drones to fly as high as planes do? I didn't think that they flew at altitudes high enough for them to interfere with planes. This is another reason why designated areas or altitudes would be beneficial in preventing future accidents.

  4. I feel that drones are just a trend, I really don't feel that they will become a normal consumer product until they're is a real reason to own one. Of course its great for a hobbyist but I just don't see why anyone else would need one. I really do feel there should be regulation on them because of how loud they are. I don't want one of them to be flying around my house at 2am because thats when most people are sleeping. There is also no reason to be flying a drone at all really, unless some form of data is being recored that can somehow benefit humanity, its unnecessary. Im sure its cool to see someones house from really high up in the air but I'm sure a neighbor doesn't feel the same way about it. These things should not be going near any kind of plane, that is just a really dumb idea. You can jam signals near a plane, or maybe even hit one. I just don't see a practical way to prevent this from happening. Anyone can buy a drone and unless there is some kind of non-tamperable tracking on them, they are pretty much free to go wherever. If these devices turn out not to be a trend like 3d-printing than they will most likely need to be regulated due to the power and capabilities of its hardware. I am actually quite curious to see how they might approach the problem.

  5. Hello Jon,
    I wanted to start by saying this is a very intersting topic to write about. In-addition, I find this article about drones and drone technology as an appropriate topic to write about. First, I would like to say that Drone technology is very trendy. What I mean by this is simple, its a technology trend that is taking wave over consumers who want to have the latest-and-greatest gadgets/technology. Also, I find that the drone technology is developing a new issue with privacy. It has been mentioned in the news about Drones being shot out of the sky for coming into restricted airspaces; additionally, another case were a man was using a Drone to spy on people through windows. This is alarming, because it the Drone technology is being used for the wrong reasons. But, I do believe that there are legitimate uses for Drone technology and that is in the military; I think that the military should adapt this technology and try to modify it for my practical uses/applications. In-conclusion, I would like to end by saying that I think there are very few reasons that anyone should be able to own a drone. I also believe that the military could take advantage of the drone technology more then the general public.

  6. This is a very important topic considering the increased use of drones by individuals. Prior to reading this article, I was unaware of the close collision rate in airplane traffic. I find this topic to be considerably interesting because my grandfather has multiple drones and enjoys flying them as a hobby. I often wonder about their effect on air traffic and invasion on personal privacy. I feel that there aren't enough rules and regulations when it comes to flying drones. The D-NAS effort to monitor air traffic by having drone users input their drone's flight radius as well as the intended flight time, could be a huge first step in avoiding any hindrance drones may have on air traffic. Perhaps, drones should be connected in a network with airplane traffic in order to track the air traffic and ensure that there won't be any collisions. With the increased use and popularity of drones, I feel that there should be more rules and regulations surrounding their use. Although I think they can be extremely beneficial for military and mapping purposes, I feel that they can infringe on privacy and evidently have created issues in air traffic. The implementation of more rules regulations and perhaps the creation of a tracking network between planes and drones could be very successful in ensuring air traffic safety.


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