Drone sighting at Frankfurt Airport sees massive disruption and 143 flights cancelled

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Early this Thursday morning, the sighting of a drone at Germany’s Frankfurt airport resulted in all take-offs and landings being suspended for approximately one hour as the incident was investigated. At just after 8.15 a.m. local time the all-clear was given, but not before 143 take-offs and landings were canceled. In addition, 48 aircraft which were airborne and due to land at Frankfurt were diverted to other airports.

This incident follows on from a similar one in March where 60 scheduled flights were cancelled as runways were closed down for half an hour after a drone sighting. The number of drones being sighted is increasing. Last year, for example, German Air Traffic Control (DFL) registered 125 disruptions in the area around airports. The greatest number of disruptions (31) was at Frankfurt Airport, followed by Berlin-Tegel (17), Munich (14) and Hamburg (12). In 2017, the total number of reported sightings at German airports was 88 cases, while in 2016 there were 64 such incidents.

In Germany, Drone flights over runways at airports are prohibited. Drones are also not allowed to be flown over crowds, hospitals, prisons, government buildings, federal highways and railways, while drone operators must also keep their device within a clear line of sight during the flight and must not fly them higher than 100 meters.

In December last year, Christmas holiday traffic was severely disrupted at London’s Gatwick Airport after a series of drone sightings which saw numerous flights cancelled or postponed between December 19 and 21. In total over 1,000 flights and over 140,000 passengers were immediately affected, though delays to subsequent flights also ensued. Both London Gatwick and London Heathrow airports now deploy military-grade anti-drone technology to avoid similar incidents from occurring.

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