TSA planning to shoot down drones near airports

Old Dec 1, 19, 3:14 pm
  #16  
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Like you, I am not thinking the primary interdiction will be "bang bang shootemup". I think the primary format will be using some form of radio wave interference first, then if there is a scenario where someone is in danger, then resorting to "bang bang shootemup". I agree with you that consistent arrest and prosecution should be ramped up for this type of occurrence - the problem is, it can be nigh on impossible to track who is controlling them. The tech is better now than when I was young and running RC airplanes, some of these things have a pretty serious distance capability - which makes finding the operator more difficult. There are no easy solutions for this challenge, and it seems to be increasing of late. Some of these are innocent folks just trying to get cool pictures of airplanes - some have had nefarious purposes. The primary challenge is stopping these types of situations from happening, then, finding the folks doing it, with a compounding challenge of figuring out which ones have innocent intentions, and which ones don't.
Any solution that brings a drone down in an uncontrolled fashion is a poor solution. I don't know the solution other than it should not involve FAM's.

I too flew RC for many years. Moved up north and no one was flying there so kinda lost interest. Think I have a set of Spring Air retracts in my work bench
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Old Dec 2, 19, 1:47 pm
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
Any solution that brings a drone down in an uncontrolled fashion is a poor solution. I don't know the solution other than it should not involve FAM's.

I too flew RC for many years. Moved up north and no one was flying there so kinda lost interest. Think I have a set of Spring Air retracts in my work bench
I am not going to argue that point at all. If it is to be brought down in an uncontrolled fashion, that should be a last resort. I am not certain whether involving FAMs is a good idea, a neutral one or a bad idea. There is an element of need for LEO response in some of the cases, and having a FAM as part of the program may help with that - I will defer until I have seen where the program goes moving forward, if it ever even materializes.

My time with RC was mercifully short lived, when you are 11 and supporting your habit by mowing yards, the cash dries up quickly with those things...
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Old Dec 3, 19, 4:25 am
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
Like you, I am not thinking the primary interdiction will be "bang bang shootemup". I think the primary format will be using some form of radio wave interference first, then if there is a scenario where someone is in danger, then resorting to "bang bang shootemup". I agree with you that consistent arrest and prosecution should be ramped up for this type of occurrence - the problem is, it can be nigh on impossible to track who is controlling them. The tech is better now than when I was young and running RC airplanes, some of these things have a pretty serious distance capability - which makes finding the operator more difficult. There are no easy solutions for this challenge, and it seems to be increasing of late. Some of these are innocent folks just trying to get cool pictures of airplanes - some have had nefarious purposes. The primary challenge is stopping these types of situations from happening, then, finding the folks doing it, with a compounding challenge of figuring out which ones have innocent intentions, and which ones don't.
Can you cite some examples of drones being operated near US airports with "nefarious intentions?" I haven't heard of any, but then I haven't been looking for them so I may have missed them.
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Old Dec 3, 19, 8:06 am
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Originally Posted by WillCAD View Post
Can you cite some examples of drones being operated near US airports with "nefarious intentions?" I haven't heard of any, but then I haven't been looking for them so I may have missed them.
I can't specifically state that this incident was more than some teens having fun, but the cost and challenges it presented were real and tangible - Gatwick Drones

This one has malicious actors, but is a much less likely scenario than Gatwick - Saudi drone attacks

With social media, and the way news cycles run now, copycat events are a real possibility. Add in Known Terror networks seeing it and recognizing the softer spots, actual attacks are a threat matrix that has to be considered. There have been (luckily) almost non-existent situations like this in the US, and I would love to keep it that way, but formulate a good response should the need to defend against this type of attack arise.
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Old Dec 3, 19, 5:30 pm
  #20  
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
I can't specifically state that this incident was more than some teens having fun, but the cost and challenges it presented were real and tangible - Gatwick Drones

This one has malicious actors, but is a much less likely scenario than Gatwick - Saudi drone attacks

With social media, and the way news cycles run now, copycat events are a real possibility. Add in Known Terror networks seeing it and recognizing the softer spots, actual attacks are a threat matrix that has to be considered. There have been (luckily) almost non-existent situations like this in the US, and I would love to keep it that way, but formulate a good response should the need to defend against this type of attack arise.
What would be the objective of someone with nefarious intentions?
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Old Dec 4, 19, 8:49 am
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
What would be the objective of someone with nefarious intentions?
We could talk for hours about intent or objectives - from something as petty as hoping to delay someone you don't like from landing, all the way to outright armed attacks on people, infrastructure, or even specifically targeted individuals on one flight (someone the person with nefarious intent considers a high value target). Simplest answer would be to do damage for some reason (insert individual reason here - money, personal vendetta, military tactic, ideology, 15 minutes of fame, etc) that is important to the person performing the attacks. Imagine the economic impact to the airlines and personal impact to the passengers if ATL (or insert XXXL airport here) had a situation like Gatwick. The ripple effect would be pretty big. DHS has seen a steady increase in these types of events with Drones of all sizes, and functions (surveillance, transport, communication, the list goes on). It makes sense that they are game planning various ways to address the issue.
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Old Dec 4, 19, 9:12 am
  #22  
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
We could talk for hours about intent or objectives - from something as petty as hoping to delay someone you don't like from landing, all the way to outright armed attacks on people, infrastructure, or even specifically targeted individuals on one flight (someone the person with nefarious intent considers a high value target). Simplest answer would be to do damage for some reason (insert individual reason here - money, personal vendetta, military tactic, ideology, 15 minutes of fame, etc) that is important to the person performing the attacks. Imagine the economic impact to the airlines and personal impact to the passengers if ATL (or insert XXXL airport here) had a situation like Gatwick. The ripple effect would be pretty big. DHS has seen a steady increase in these types of events with Drones of all sizes, and functions (surveillance, transport, communication, the list goes on). It makes sense that they are game planning various ways to address the issue.
A typical drone would not take down an aircraft the size of a commercial airliner. Damage it yes, but I highly doubt it would damage the aircraft so badly as to cause an uncontrolled crash. More likely would be interference with flight ops which is bad enough when takeoff/landings are scheduled as tightly as they are. A drone with a payload would be a whole different ball of wax but even easier would be using a Law's.

Still, the thought that someone is going to dispatch FAM's or other LEO's to shoot down drones is laughable.
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Old Dec 4, 19, 10:14 am
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
A typical drone would not take down an aircraft the size of a commercial airliner. Damage it yes, but I highly doubt it would damage the aircraft so badly as to cause an uncontrolled crash. More likely would be interference with flight ops which is bad enough when takeoff/landings are scheduled as tightly as they are. A drone with a payload would be a whole different ball of wax but even easier would be using a Law's.
The Guardian - How dangerous are drones to aircraft?

Any midair collision with an object is dangerous to aircraft, as exemplified by the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009. Capt Chesley Sullenberger steered a passenger jet carrying 155 people into the Hudson River after it hit a flock of Canada geese shortly after taking off from La Guardia airport in New York City. The birds destroyed both aircraft engines.

The weight of a Canada goose – between 2kg and 6.5kg – is exceeded by some professional-quality camera drones. Pilots have called for more testing on the potential impact of a drone on an engine – tests that manufacturers routinely apply for bird strikes – but this would be expensive.

***

Why not just shoot down the drone?

Drones aren’t (usually) bulletproof, and a well-placed shot will end their journey sharpish. But, for obvious reasons, police are loth to discharge weapons in sensitive areas like airports: bullets are dangerous on the way down, as well as the way up, and the risk of collateral damage from a missed shot is high. And the chances of a shot being missed may be quite high. A small drone moving rapidly almost half a kilometre in the air presents a difficult task for anyone but a trained marksman.

Despite that, police carrying long-range rifles have reportedly been placed along the runway, ready to shoot down any trespassing drone.

***
The Economist - Why drones could pose a greater risk to aircraft than birds

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New research suggests that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can actually be much more damaging than birds at the same impact speed, even if they are a similar weight. The study, published by the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, a think-tank, used computer simulations to examine the impact of bird and UAV collisions in more than 180 scenarios. The researchers found that the drones’ rigid and dense materials—such as metal, plastic and lithium batteries—can put aeroplanes at much greater risk than a bird carcass. Kiran D’Souza, one of the authors, says that in every collision scenario with a drone there was at least minor damage to the plane and sometimes it was much more severe. In one case, the researchers discovered that if a drone were to hit an aircraft’s fan blades when it is operating at its highest speed, the blades could shatter and power to the engine be lost.

***

Last edited by TWA884; Dec 4, 19 at 10:21 am
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Old Dec 4, 19, 11:44 am
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I have crewed airplanes that have had bird strikes and hail strikes. The worst I saw caused extensive damaged to the aircraft from a large flock of birds smaller than Canada Geese, crushing the nose radome, damaging the leading edges of the wing, multiple engine impacts, and other damages. But, the airplane was controllable and safely landed. Hitting a flock of large birds, like Canada Geese, does increase risk but when thinking of drones the general concern is for one vehicle to impact the airplane unlike a flock of birds. Loss of a single engine, damage to a flight surface or other such damage should not make the airplane crash but allow for a timely, return to base or completion of the approach. If someone launches an attack with multiple drones then the outcome could be much worse.

As stated in the information posted by TWA884, a loss of engine thrust was possible if the drone impacted the fan blades of an engine at high speed (high power settings like during takeoff). Again unless multiple impacts happened I believe the aircraft, while damaged, would still be able to make a safe landing. Airplanes are much tougher than people believe and can withstand a fair amount of damage and still be flyable.

In 2001 there was a mid-air by a Chinese military jet and a U.S. Navy aircraft. The Navy aircraft was severely damaged but was able to land. The outcome for the Chinese jet wasn't so good. This represents a much larger impact than a drone and gives and indication of just how tough airplanes are.

Video before the midair.

I'm not saying there is no risk, but I believe in most cases an aircraft vs drone mid-air would allow the aircraft to land safely. There certainly is some risk of shooting down drones over potentially populated areas since some many airports have lost safe buffer zones due to population growth in the area. I don't have an answer of drones flown in the vicinity of airports but would be very hard to convince that shoot downs are the way to go.

Last edited by Boggie Dog; Dec 4, 19 at 11:51 am
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Old Dec 4, 19, 2:26 pm
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I suppose it's possible that some entity could use multiple drones to damage several aircraft, hoping that even though the specific damage might be minimal and not life-threatening, the incidents could cause trepidation or panic among the (easily panicked) general public about traveling by air. Neither the public nor the government is especially good at making rational risk assessments.

Though I also don't know what the answer might be if the drone risk were determined to be high enough to take action. It doesn't seem like there is any good solution that wouldn't trade one risk for another, or lead to poor unintended consequences.
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Old Dec 4, 19, 5:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
I'm not saying there is no risk, but I believe in most cases an aircraft vs drone mid-air would allow the aircraft to land safely.
I do not claim to know the answer, however, I will point out that on at least two occasions takeoffs and landings at London Gatwick Airport were suspended when drones were spotted flying in the vicinity of the runway.
BBC: Gatwick Airport: Drones ground flights

BBC: Flights diverted after Gatwick Airport 'drone sighting'
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Old Dec 4, 19, 7:14 pm
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Originally Posted by TWA884 View Post
I do not claim to know the answer, however, I will point out that on at least two occasions takeoffs and landings at London Gatwick Airport were suspended when drones were spotted flying in the vicinity of the runway.

BBC: Gatwick Airport: Drones ground flights

BBC: Flights diverted after Gatwick Airport 'drone sighting'
I'm aware of those cases and suspending operations was prudent. As I recall authorities were unsuccessful in locating the operator(s). I'm also not suggesting that airplanes and passengers should be placed in jeopardy if unauthorized drone operations are underway. I have doubts that rifle fire on a moving drone would be very successful yet the projectile will come down somewhere and that is a hazard in itself. Even if the decision is made to shoot down drones I don't think using FAM's is a good use of their skills.
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Old Yesterday, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
I have crewed airplanes that have had bird strikes and hail strikes. The worst I saw caused extensive damaged to the aircraft from a large flock of birds smaller than Canada Geese, crushing the nose radome, damaging the leading edges of the wing, multiple engine impacts, and other damages. But, the airplane was controllable and safely landed. Hitting a flock of large birds, like Canada Geese, does increase risk but when thinking of drones the general concern is for one vehicle to impact the airplane unlike a flock of birds. Loss of a single engine, damage to a flight surface or other such damage should not make the airplane crash but allow for a timely, return to base or completion of the approach. If someone launches an attack with multiple drones then the outcome could be much worse.

As stated in the information posted by TWA884, a loss of engine thrust was possible if the drone impacted the fan blades of an engine at high speed (high power settings like during takeoff). Again unless multiple impacts happened I believe the aircraft, while damaged, would still be able to make a safe landing. Airplanes are much tougher than people believe and can withstand a fair amount of damage and still be flyable.

In 2001 there was a mid-air by a Chinese military jet and a U.S. Navy aircraft. The Navy aircraft was severely damaged but was able to land. The outcome for the Chinese jet wasn't so good. This represents a much larger impact than a drone and gives and indication of just how tough airplanes are.

Video before the midair.

I'm not saying there is no risk, but I believe in most cases an aircraft vs drone mid-air would allow the aircraft to land safely. There certainly is some risk of shooting down drones over potentially populated areas since some many airports have lost safe buffer zones due to population growth in the area. I don't have an answer of drones flown in the vicinity of airports but would be very hard to convince that shoot downs are the way to go.
One thing that I think many people are not really considering, is that Drones come in all shapes and sizes. A 2 Ft drone with no payload may cause a challenges with engines or planes in flight (not really likely, except in the same way that a bird strike would function). A 5 Ft drone is an entirely different situation, the mass and damage ratio increase exponentially. The size and payload capacity are factors that would have an impact on the way that the situation should be addressed. The discussion is a serious one that we need to have, and prepare for in some ways. Sadly, I think that the collective disinterest of our Country will probably result in a plane being damaged or crashing before something will be discussed seriously. I am certain that there is a solution for this, but I am uncertain what form or process would be best - I would have to do a lot more research on it before I would have some workable ideas.
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Old Yesterday, 1:23 pm
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Originally Posted by gsoltso View Post
One thing that I think many people are not really considering, is that Drones come in all shapes and sizes. A 2 Ft drone with no payload may cause a challenges with engines or planes in flight (not really likely, except in the same way that a bird strike would function). A 5 Ft drone is an entirely different situation, the mass and damage ratio increase exponentially. The size and payload capacity are factors that would have an impact on the way that the situation should be addressed. The discussion is a serious one that we need to have, and prepare for in some ways. Sadly, I think that the collective disinterest of our Country will probably result in a plane being damaged or crashing before something will be discussed seriously. I am certain that there is a solution for this, but I am uncertain what form or process would be best - I would have to do a lot more research on it before I would have some workable ideas.
I don't fully disagree however even a large drone has a fairly concentrated center mass with booms mounted for propellers. Still a large drone could represent perhaps a 15 lb or so mass which would be damaging if impacting an airplane. It would also be damaging to people or things on the ground falling out of the sky. My solution would be a means to scan frequencies and take control of the drone with a more powerful transmitter if that is technically feasible. Fully agree that plans to mitigate the threat are appropriate.
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