There was a brief disruption of flights at the Newark Liberty international airport after pilots of two incoming flights saw two drones in the air. They were in the airspace of Teterboro airport, which is located some 20 miles to the north. The presence of such unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are a flight safety hazard and the authorities suspended operations temporarily. The Federal Aviation Administration is aware of this incident at the second-largest airport in the New York Metropolitan area.

The Guardian reports flights resumed after getting necessary clearance since there were no further sightings of any drones.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operate this airport. They have confirmed that federal law enforcement authorities are investigating the incident. There are many restrictions on flying drones and one of these specifies safe heights, which the operators appear to have violated.

Drones pose flight safety hazards

The drones or unmanned aerial vehicles used to be a weapon for the military but have now become a commercial entity. However, those who have to bother about flight safety have laid down guidelines for their safe operation. The Federal Aviation Administration FAA has defined a safe height, which, as per its website, is “not to fly drones above 400ft and not to fly them near airports.” In the Newark Liberty international airport incident, the pilots noticed the drones at an estimated height of 3,500ft.

This was a potentially dangerous situation and could have had serious repercussions.

The chaos that can result from drones in the airspace over an airport was evident at Gatwick airport in the UK. It happened in December 2018 and the holiday crowd had to endure misery over three days. The drones forced the authorities of Gatwick airport to cancel nearly 1,000 flights and it affected thousands of passengers.

There was a second similar incident in London Heathrow airport in January and those in charge of flight safety attempt to evolve suitable deterrents to curb such activities because they endanger the aircraft, passengers and crew.

Stop the misuse of drones

According to CBS New York, the sighting of two drones near Newark’s airspace resulted in a panic situation that led to a temporary halt in flight operations. Audio messages from air traffic control indicated the objects were flying dangerously close to a plane and it prompted a police helicopter search. However, some of the incoming flights had to delay their landing and circle the airport several times while flights waiting for takeoff had to wait for clearance. Drones, originally developed for the battlefield and for law enforcement agencies, now have many commercial applications. Therefore, rigid control over their operation is of top priority keeping in mind the implications of flight safety.