The instances of drones disrupting airspace are becoming common place. The most recent caused stalling of flight operations at the Wellington Airport for about 30 minutes yesterday evening after a drone was spotted flying dangerously close to the runway.
According to reports a total of ten flights were delayed on Sunday evening after a drone was apparently seen at Wellington Airport. The drone was spotted by an Air Nelson plane approaching the city at just after 6.30pm. Pilots on the ground at the airport reported the drone’s visibility for another 23 minutes.
Confirming that this drone flight was a breach of the Civil Aviation Authority rules, General Manager of air traffic services, Tim Boyle, said that the drone was operating at 183m three kilometres from the end of the runway in the Evans Bay area. He said while it was not a near-miss it was difficult to predict where a drone would go, there could have been catastrophic consequences if the drone was hit by a plane.
Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said “My understanding is the police went to assist with that, but it was only a very temporary hold.” A police media spokeswoman said police received a report of a drone being flown in the airspace around the airport at 6.45pm. Enquiries were made but no one was located and normal operations resumed in roughly 30 minutes.
Civil Aviation Authority has been working with several other organizations on refining regulations to avoid potential threats of drones flying into airlines. According to the civil aviation rules drones do not authorize drones to be flown higher than 122m or closer than 4km from any aerodrome.
Also a license for commercial drone operators is a requisite. Airways want a compulsory register for recreational users so it can track and determine who is operating a drone in the wrong place.
A drone detection radar is being trialled by the Auckland Airport. Mr Boyle said the initial results seemed promising and he hoped for creating increased awareness about drone flying.
In another drone flying related incident the pilot of a rescue helicopter mission on Sunday night, James Taylor narrowly avoided collision with a drone above Takapuna, when he was flying the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to a car accident north of Auckland just after 8pm.
At a height of 400 metres, the drone was nearly four times higher than its legal height. The rescue chopper was travelling at 250km/h, so a collision with a drone could have caused serious damage and possibly cost lives. Mr Taylor said, “The message to people is go out and enjoy your drones; they’re great tools for all sorts of things – but make sure you comply with the rules.”
Mr Taylor due to being on an emergency call, they didn’t have the time to search the area but they reported the incident to police and aviation authorities.