back to article Questions hang over Gatwick Airport after low level drone near-miss report

Two airline pilots reported a near-miss with a drone while just 30 seconds from touchdown at London Gatwick airport earlier this year, an official report has revealed. Both the captain and first officer (FO) of an Airbus A320 landing at Gatwick in the evening of 8 July this year saw the errant drone, which the first officer …

  1. Joe W Silver badge


    Oh, and runway lengths are (in Europe at least) displayed in metres, at least on the major airports I traveled through in the last years. Since these are commercial airports (and big ones...) I guess this is yet another ICAO standard - feel free to correct me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Units

      ...and runway bearings are based on degrees/10, e.g. Runway 27 points due west at 270 degrees

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Units

        >Runway 27 points due west at 270 degrees

        <Nerd_Mode = extreme> Magnetic bearings, 270deg will only be due west for a few places

        1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

          Re: Units

          I always assumed they were not magnetic bearings? For one thing, you'd have to change runway names when the poles wander around. (Although dividing by ten would help here.)

          1. LoPath

            Re: Units

            Actually, it's not unheard of for an airport to change their runway markings due to those wandering poles.

            1. Korev Silver badge

              Re: Units

              Wandering Poles? Isn't that why people voted for Brexit?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Units

            Yes, they do. Stansted's were changed a few years ago for that reason.

            Also, if an airport has multiple parallel runways, they typically have L or R after the number to tell them apart. Or in some cases they offset them by 1. So there could be 27 and 28 even though they're parallel.

            Also also, each strip of tarmac is technically two runways facing opposite 12 and 30 are the same strip...but the number will tell the pilots which way to approach from based on the wind.

            1. batfink Silver badge

              Re: Units

              L & R? Port and Starboard surely? What happens when the wind changes and you're approaching from the other direction?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Units

                "L & R? Port and Starboard surely?"

                No, it's L & R.

                "What happens when the wind changes and you're approaching from the other direction?"

                If you were to go ogle an airport from the air, and happened to cast an eye on first one end of a pair, and then the other, all would become clear. Here's SFO to get you started.

                And stop calling me Shirley.

              2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: Units

                No, the terms "left" and "right" are usually used in aircraft operations rather than "port" and "starboard" - though aircraft engineers will use those terms. You will (for example) hear air traffic controllers give instructions such as, "Turn RIGHT onto heading 320." You will never hear a controller give instructions to turn port or starboard. The standard (and mandatory) terminology used by controllers is designed to be the least likely for the words to be misunderstood or confused with each other. e.g. it is "climb" or "descend" rather than "ascend" and "descend" which could be mistaken for each other. Pilots must never use the words "take-off" in radio messages as another aircraft may believe that it is being given clearance to enter the runway. Only air traffic controllers may use that terminology. A pilot will ask for "Permission to depart" to request take-off clearance, and the controller will reply "Cleared for take-off."

                The left runway becomes the right runway when approached from the other direction. So if the wind changes, the runway in use might change from (e.g.) 27L to 09R - both being the same strip of tarmac.

                1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Units

                  Technically, it's called "controlled vocabulary".

                  It's a kind of verbal error correcting code.

                  (which is also why "X" in the phonetic alphabet is always "XRAY" and never "XYLOPHONE")

            2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Units

              Although it can be confusing in some cases - e.g. runways 02 and 20 and runways 13 and 31. Note that pilots will often be reading the runway numbers upside-down.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Units

                Only if they've already overshot the runway!

          3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Units

            >I always assumed they were not magnetic bearings?

            You expect a mustache wearing pilot to do sums in their head?

            >For one thing, you'd have to change runway names when the poles wander around.

            And there was a wailing and nashing of teeth when Heathrow changed 28L to 27L

          4. Jeffrey Nonken

            Re: Units

            "'d have to change runway names when the poles wander around."


          5. Mayday


            Most runways are in degrees magnetic as thats what the aircraft compass displays. Much easier than converting to true and back in your head once on final. Wind directions from forecasts are true, but directions given by systems such as ATIS and AWIS are magnetic.

            Runways which are in degrees true are ones near magnetic poles which go all over the place and compasses make little sense, such as the Aussie run Wilkins in Antarctica.


            Instrument approach in degrees true too. Good luck to the ballsy pilots landing here.


            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Magnetic

              "degrees magnetic as thats what the aircraft compass displays"

              Does this meant that the heading displayed by a GPS unit on the aircraft takes the actual heading, and then adds on the magnetic deviation so that it's 'correct'?

              1. Lusty

                Re: Magnetic

                GPS units generally have a magnetic compass input via some kind of canbus (or similar). They also have an input for a proper altimeter rather than assume GPS knows the altitude.

          6. Aussie Doc Bronze badge

            Re: Units

            That would be Franciszek Wiśniewski and his girlfriend Katarzyna Kowalczyk.

            Those Poles are always off wandering around.

          7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Units

            Yes, and the runway designations are indeed changed every few years in response to change in magnetic variation.

        2. S4qFBxkFFg

          Re: Units

          "Magnetic bearings"

          With the exception of runways at airfields inconveniently close to the magnetic poles (i.e. Canada, and iirc Greenland, Alaska, and bits of Russia).

          Other things in these areas like airways and VORs/NDBs might also be set up with reference to degrees true rather than degrees magnetic, can't remember for sure though.

          edit: oops - just noticed someone beat me to that point. By 14 hours.

    2. Empty1


      Not forgetting millibars vs inches of mercury for air pressure

      1. ICL1900-G3

        Re: pressure

        Not any more, it's hectopascals now.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first thought?

    I bet the footage from the drone was fantastic!

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: My first thought?

      Who knows, perhaps the perp intended to put it on YouTube but then changed their mind.

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Re: My first thought?

        I think I found the footage in an open AWS bucket.

    2. batfink Silver badge

      Re: My first thought?

      Does anyone know whether there's a lot of footage of these near-misses posted? I can't imagine these clowns not wanting to post their efforts. Particularly as they seem to be putting their expensive toys at risk.

      Had a quick google but not much returned - perhaps I just don't know the right keywords to search for.

      1. SonofRojBlake

        Re: My first thought?

        You won't see the videos, in much the same way and for the same reason that you don't see videos of 99.9% of successful base jumps. The people doing it are videoing it for their own personal pleasure, not for the approval of a mass of numpties they'll never meet and aren't trying to impress. I know that to the Youtube/Instagram generation the concept of doing something entirely for your own satisfaction is an alien concept. Base jumpers are, in my experience, thoughtful, methodical, serious-minded men (and it is almost always men), far from the stereotype surfer-dude. They'll allude darkly to jumps they've made but generally admit to very little, because the majority of what they get up to is illegal, and while you may think jumping off buildings is bloody stupid, they're not SO bloody stupid that they'll make evidence publicly available. (A mate showed me footage he shot jumping off a building in Manchester at 3am. He confidently told me there's someone jumping off something tall in Manchester basically every weekend, but you'll never hear about it on the news because the building operators don't want to admit they can't secure their roofs. As long as nobody dies, nobody hears. I don't imagine Manchester is unique in having these people operating basically all the time.)

        I'm surprised the vaunted geofencing supposedly standard in off-the-shelf drones didn't stop the DJI from flying where it did. It's well inside the Class D CTR for Gatwick, which starts at ground level.

  3. Commswonk Silver badge

    Pointless Statement

    A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said: “It is illegal to fly drones close to airports without permission and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment. Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe.”

    Since when exactly did a law / regulation / rule actually prevent miscreants doing the very thing(s) that said law (etc) makes illegal?

    All any law (etc) does is provide a framework for statutory retribution; no law ever prevented anything ever, although it will probably reduce the incidence of it. Well.. hopefully anyway.

    Anyone (politicians perhaps?) believing that banning something actually stops it from happening is living in a dream world.

    1. Tomato42

      Re: Pointless Statement

      1. some people don't know it's illegal

      2. some people don't understand how extremely dangerous it is

      yes, actual evil-doers won't be stopped by telling people it's illegal to do, but more regular people will

    2. strum

      Re: Pointless Statement

      >Since when exactly did a law / regulation / rule actually prevent miscreants doing the very thing(s) that said law (etc) makes illegal?

      Classic example - seatbelts. The law changed general behaviour, almost overnight. Some people still break it, but most don't.

      Same applies to drink/drive laws, speeding laws

      Most people are law-abiding (no matter how much they may disagree with the law). Some people don't give a shit about the law, social norms - or anything at all.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ban them

    Also ban hoverboards, and e-scooters.

    I once heard drones as being referred to by the government as "new technology". Its not new technology, just existing technology put together to form a slightly different version of the age old radio controlled device. Its just marketing.

    Back before quadcopters were a thing I remember stabilised radio controlled helicopters being the big toy for xmas. I got a few, some were able to fly happily outdoors. Not once did they trigger a news item regarding how dangerous they were to planes etc.

    Maybe its because these quadcopters have cameras and video links. Well, perhaps just ban those types, to the general public at least. No camera = user forced to fly while looking at the craft and there being no point i getting close to a plane. If you need a camera on the drone I suggest such models are regulated and restricted in the same way certain fireworks are simply not accessible to the public, through legal means.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drones

      The issue is not the cameras, but rather the height and distance that modern drones can fly, combined with the fact that they often contain lithium batteries. I agree banning them isn't going to help, but I talk to a lot of people who own drones and are completely oblivious to the laws that govern the use of airspace (that drones are subject to the same as aircraft). There should be a test on air law at least required before being able to use them above a few tens of feet.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        Won't work. How many people without a proper driver's license still drive? Requiring a "test" won't stop many drone user except for the one's who normally obey laws.

        Perhaps banning them, might work. So might take get a drone license (rules, laws, etc.) before being able to buy one might help. But many (some? a few?) will still find a way to get one and fly it whenever and wherever they want. After all, they're "entitled".

        1. Tomato42

          Re: Drones

          but if there is a test and licence required, people will be aware of it and people that don't have the licence will try to not stick their head too high

        2. mutt13y

          Re: Drones

          There is some benefit.

          You have a fighting chance of catching people flying a drone without a license, because their operations would always be illegal not just near airports.

          Also making it illegal to sell one to an unlicensed individual will help.

          It would reduce the number of idiots but not to 0.

      2. FPVUK

        Re: Drones

        There is a mandatory government test and registration for flying all drones that weigh more than 250g in the UK.

        1. TDog

          Re: Drones

          Yep - and members of model aircraft flying societies have just dropped by a quarter. I haven't flown radio controlled model aircrafts for 40 years but they all weighed about 1 - 4 Kg then. Amazing how you can make legal illegal with just the trivial law.

          I think I will start flying RCMA's again. But not join a club who are legally obliged to submit appropriate details of membership. Sadly the civil service has yet to determine exactly what those details are. But (HooBloodyHooray) they have managed to decide on the penalties.

          Twats & Toe rags seems an insufficient description

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Drones

            Somehow I doubt that the average person who can build and fly a 4kg model aircraft, would have much problems getting their drone license. I'm guessing any model flying club worth it's salt would also have kicked out any member who even thought about flying near an airfield, even forty years ago.

            And when I check the CAA's website:

            "Similarly, where a UK model aircraft association already has an established and CAA reviewed ‘competency scheme’, members who hold an appropriate achievement certificate or award (such as the BMFA ‘A’ certificate) will also be exempt from having to undertake the online education training and test."


          2. TDog

            Re: Drones

            Having checked for another purpose I now find this:


            Which clarifies the situation. Not sure when it changed but apologies for the rant!

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        Plus they are cheaper than the older technologies and you don't have to be an enthusiast, in the same way as model aircraft pilots are/were.

        Although in Germany drones pretty much have the same flight restrictions as model aircraft - only a model airfields or over open land, not over residential, commercial or industrial areas and not around airports (although our local model aerodrome is a couple of hundred metres beyond the end of the glider clubs runway, but they've peacefully co-existed for decades).

      4. Lusty

        Re: Drones

        "The issue is not the cameras, but rather the height and distance that modern drones can fly"

        No, the issue is that when they did a "chicken test" against a jet engine, the Titanium drone parts ripped the plane a new one rather than just killing the engine like a frozen chicken would.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        No, it's the cameras. RC aircraft have been around for ages. It's since cheap, easy to fly 'copters with cameras have come out that people are doing all sorts of things with them like flying around airports, fires with active airborne firefighting, etc. Without a camera, people would be less likely to fly where they shouldn't and it also lets people fly further out than they would otherwise be able to. On a day with a white hazy sky, my Phantom gets very hard to find if I take my eyes off of it for a second. It's having the camera that brings the majority of people to drone flying.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Drones

      They could also ban knives and guns

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        and making fists?

        1. ashdav

          Re: Drones

          And looking at people in a funny way.

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: Drones

            Walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness!

            1. SonofRojBlake

              Re: Drones

              Coughing without due care and attention.

              1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

                Re: Drones

                Walking around with an offensive wife!

                (This is one that I've been known to do on occasion!)

                1. Spasticus Autisticus

                  Having an offensive person on your weapon

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Drones

            Scot gov are already on that one......

        2. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Drones

          pointed remarks

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Drones

          You must not have kids in school or you would have got the memo that they'd be suspended for making a fist or a gun with their fingers.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        A farting as that's surely chemical warfare.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Drones

      No, it's because they are ridiculously easy to fly. Flying an R/C helicopter or fixed-wing takes a great many hours of practice to master. People who have never flown an R/C model would usually join a club and receive tutoring and advice from other members - also gaining an appreciation for what is and is not sensible. People receiving a DJI phantom could be threatening an airliner 5 minutes after taking it out of the box, having no idea that what they are doing is at all dangerous.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Drones

        "could be threatening an airliner 5 minutes after taking it out of the box,"

        The greater issue with commercial jets is they would have to be taken from service and inspected if a drone strike were suspected. It gets worse when you look at the inlet side of business jets and propellors. A propeller smacking a drone could cause a whole bunch of fatal damage. A drone being sucked into the engine of a business jet would destroy the engine. One hitting the windscreen of a plane coming in for a landing might startle the pilots. I'd need a change of clothes and a shower after something like that. It also means down checking the plane until it can be inspected/repaired. You don't want to find out that a seal was damaged at 40,000'.

        1. spold Silver badge

          Re: Drones


          You don't want to find out that a seal was damaged at 40,000


          These emotional support animals are getting quite ridiculous.

          Beef, chicken or fish sir, I'll take the beef and my companion will have all the fish..

  5. Imhotep Silver badge

    "Since when exactly did a law / regulation / rule actually prevent miscreants doing the very thing(s) that said law (etc) makes illegal?"

    Pretty much never - but that has never had an impact on the demand to pass more and more laws, with no provision for enforcement.

    Then all involved pat themselves on the back for addressing the problem.

    Passing laws is easy and cheap, enforcement is difficult and costly.

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      > ...enforcement is difficult and costly.

      And someone else's problem.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Enforcement is not difficult when something goes wrong.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Yes it is. For instance, consider the two innocents wrongly arrested during the Heathrow drone debacle last year. Look at the utter failure to trace the true culprit(s), or even to prove there were any culprits. Despite widespread alleged sightings no credible evidence has ever been produced.

          The same would have happened had "something gone wrong".

  6. AIBailey

    I thought that the big name drones (and specifically that DJI have been mentioned here in the past) used geofencing to explicitly prevent this kind of thing occurring?

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      There are ways to get around it.

      Also having many drones on the market that dont need a mobile phone connected means you can simply avoid buying DJI altogether.

    2. Swiss Anton

      No geofencing for me

      This is why I only ever fly antique drones like the GAF Jindivik

      1. Frozit

        Re: No geofencing for me

        so "No geofencing for me" means that you think you should be able to fly your drone anywhere. Like on an airport approach corridor? Remember this the next time you are flying.

        And remember this when drones become a restricted item, and you need a license to buy one, etc. Because it is this "the rules don't apply to me" attitude that creates stronger rules.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No geofencing for me

          Did you actually follow the link and realise what he was talking about ?

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: No geofencing for me

            Yeah, I think there was a serious "Whoosh!" on that one wasn't there!

        2. Swiss Anton

          Re: No geofencing for me

          Down voting you as you clearly did not click the link. The Jindivik is a Jet powered fixed wing drone* that started life in the 1950's. It is almost as big as a light aircraft, and it lands on a runway. Hence it would be a bit tricky if to fly if it had to avoid airfields.

          *Drone, because it is flown by an autopilot. The autopilot is controlled from the ground, so it is much like today's drones. No GPS though because such things didn't exist when it was designed, hence no geofencing.

          Whoosh, was that the sound of Jindivik flying past? BTW, in my first job I worked with the engineers who designed its autopilot.

    3. batfink Silver badge

      I see a couple of Commentards here who remember, but the point needs to be made again and again:

      Please stop thinking about "Drones" purely in terms of the modern VTOL versions (DJI etc). Radio-controlled aircraft have been around for many years. Some of these are much larger and heavier than the VTOL ones. It is easily possible to make and fly your own, and yes, you can strap a camera to it. So, relying on manufacturer-installed geofencing is not going to cut it.


  7. Imhotep Silver badge

    "* Commercial aviation measures distances in nautical miles, visibility in metres and km, heights and altitude in feet, speeds in nautical mph (knots) and weights in kilograms and tonnes."

    Well, that's a nice mix of measurements. It seems that you would describe a plane climbing so many feet per kilometer traveled. Does that ever result in confusion?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >describe a plane climbing so many feet per kilometer traveled

      No that would be silly and confusing - You would use feet per minute

      1. Imhotep Silver badge

        Ahh - of course. A metric minute, presumably.

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        And its angle of climb or descent is measured in degrees (e.g. when describing the runway's approach angle or "glideslope).

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Does that ever result in confusion?

      Ton(nes) of it.

    3. Dave Pickles

      You forgot measuring fuel in pounds. Unless you're flying the Gimli Glider.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's why you need to keep your feet on the ground, stay still so you don't get tied up in knots and then sea how far you won't go. I tried to think up something stupid for the last one but couldn't weight to post this.

    5. Paul Kinsler

      Does that ever result in confusion?

      I imagine it's to avoid confusion: the units tell exactly you the meaning of the distance that you've just heard. E.g. if you hear "1 km", then you are not going to mistakenly think that's how high you are off the ground.

    6. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Need to use the FFF units, Furlongs, Ferkin, Fortnight.

  8. Mr. Flibble

    Obligatory link

  9. tony72

    Occams razor

    Two pilots claim to see a drone that nobody on the ground can see, even though it should be clearly visible, that isn't detected by the sophisticated drone detection system at the airport, and that shouldn't be able to fly there in the first place due to DJI's geofencing. I think we must consider the possibility that, just maybe, these pilots were mistaken.

    I find it strange. It would be so simple to point something like a dash cam (in fact an actual car dash cam would probably do the job) out the windscreen of a jet, and so be able to show video confirmation of some of these drone sightings, yet recorded evidence of them remains rarer than footage of the Loch Ness Monster. As long as that's the case, I put them in the same category as all other UFO sightings; I'm sure they saw something, but what exactly it was is open to question.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Occams razor

      As a general rule of thumb you can't read roadside signs properly at speeds above about 120mph (200Km/h), this is why high speed rail lines don't use track side signals. The pilots of this Airbus are flying at around 140 mph so the chances of being able to see the drone, much less recognize it as a DJI, are fairly slim.

      This doesn't mean that clowns don't fly these things where they shouldn't -- I've seen video of a commercial jet landing at Las Vegas shot from above and a quadcopter left a nasty (and expensive) dent in the front of a Mexican airliner -- but there's a tendency to hype up the risks and dangers from these things, something that affects the model aircraft community. People have been flying model aircraft in the US without hitting full sized traffic without incident for about as long as there has been both models and commercial aviation and the synthetic hysteria about drones threatens the hobby. Drones present about as much risk to air traffic as birds, its not an excuse for putting aviation at risk but it helps to get the risks into perspective.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Occams razor

        "Drones present about as much risk to air traffic as birds"

        I'm sorry, but I've got to ask for a citation for that claim.

        So far as I am aware, this has not been proven and risk is a dependent on multiple variables. There *may* be a lower probability of impact, depending on your view of the likelyhood of someone carelessly or deliberately flying into the flight path of a plane on take off or final approach, but the higher density of a drone compared to a bird of similar mass is likely to result in a greater degree of damage at a given closing velocity. However, it must be said that this has not yet been conclusively proven, and research into this is ongoing.

        Either way, I wouldn't want to be on an aircraft subject to a bird strike or a drone impact.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Occams razor

          "I'm sorry, but I've got to ask for a citation for that claim."

          This is a job for.......The MYTHBUSTERRRRRRRRS.

          It's be a good excuse to bring the chicken cannon out of retirement. And Adam and Jamie. And the show. And Carrie!!!!!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Occams razor


          2. Caver_Dave

            Re: Occams razor

            I once worked on the electronics surrounding a chicken cannon. There was an hour long lock-out on the door after a firing to let the 'dust' settle.

            I did ask an expert from one of the aircraft manufacturers about cameras some time ago. He said that they were on their military aircraft, but not on the civilian aircraft, sighting 'space' in the black box for video feed. (whatever 'space' referred to - I obviously didn't need to know.)

            ICON: There was no way that I was going into the chicken cannon target room without at least a lab coat and wellingtons!

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Occams razor

              The camera does not have to be tied into the aircraft's black box or any other system. It could be a normal self-contained dash-cam (or more usefully several of them covering different sectors). These are not for post-crash investigation, but to verify what the pilot(s) thought they saw. You'll probably find that many of the dones turn out to be birds, plastic bags or just momentary reflections or tricks of the light. As another poster stated, it is human nature to back up what another person you were with says they saw.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Occams razor

                The problem with dashcams in a commercial airliners cockpit is they need to be properly fitted so as not to become projectiles in the event of an accident. Also, fixed cameras, unless hi res and high frame rate, will not likely capture much useful information. At those speeds, the human eye will track an object giving the brain a little more time to register it and (mis-)identify it while all you see on the video playback is a blurred streak. Just look at all the "best" UFO footage!

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Occams razor

          I'm sorry, but I've got to ask for a citation for that claim.

          Still makes me laugh when people apologise in advance for their comment.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Occams razor

        "As a general rule of thumb you can't read roadside signs properly at speeds above about 120mph"

        Here in the States, road signs are sized appropriately for road speed. The larger the type, the faster you can go before it's unreadable. I assume there is an upper limit somewhere below lightspeed, but I've heard from a Funny Car driver that he can read his opponent's speed when moving in excess of 300MPH. (In testing, the cars sometimes line up alongside each other, but don't necessarily leave on the green light. One car will often allow the other to get part way (or all the way) down the track before hitting the gas, which allows the first car's speed/time to show up when the second car is still accelerating.)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Occams razor

      "we must consider the possibility that, just maybe, these pilots were mistaken"

      More likely one pilot was mistaken, and the second one is claiming that he saw the thing that the first pilot was mistaken about. That's what people do. It's how mass hysteria happens. Kinda like the non-existant drones at Gatwick a while back. Or the various UFO sightings that come in clumps when the public is primed for them.

  10. HmYiss

    Further proof

    That the flight ops business as whole cannot be trusted.. as can not one single word that comes from any part of it.

    They just wanna whip up as much anti-drone fear as they can before the fake government brings in it's ban.

    Sound familiar? ..thats cus they've done it before.

    Big bruv don't want the little man having eyes in the skies. So they just keep staging shit like this until someone spits out the dummy.

  11. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Point defense?

    Maybe it's time to start mounting automated point-defense turrets on airliners. What could go wrong?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Point defense?

      Shhh! the defence industry is probably listening.

    2. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Point defense?

      Back in August 2017 I posted:

      "Just fit all commercial aircraft with remote-operated gun positions (1940s tech, as seen on aircraft ranging from Me-210s and -410s to B-17s and B-29s) or with an external rail fitted with an infra-red homing missile. Paint the kill scores on the tails of the aircraft, the way the Luftwaffe did, along with the gongs awarded for those who have high scores. Who wouldn't want to fly in an Airbus emblazoned with the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (a.k.a. the Throatache with Lettuce and Knives and Forks)? Here's Heinz Bar's Fw-190, after he got his Throatache with Lettuce and Cutlery, for making 200 kills."

      I still like this idea. The Luftwaffe... err, Lufthansa... would love visiting Gatwick so that their pilots could increase their scores. And KLM would mount a few cannon and a broomstick on their aircraft. JAL's pilots would just shoot 'Banzai!' and ram. Air Nigeria would capture them air-to-air and shortly there'd be email around the world about how a Nigerian prince has a drone for sale. And American Airlines would borrow some AC-130s just for the London run. Then someone from Tunbridge Wells would write in to the Daily Mail to complain about all those furriners coming to poach targets in British airspace leaving nothing for Good British Aircrew to shoot at.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Point defense?

        All good ideas, apart from the AAM. I doubt there would be enough IR or radar signature.

        Instead I propose mounting an automatic shotgun. Those little buggers would be hard to hit with normal ammo.

        And yes, I do agree that the Americans would want to use all the weapons on their AC130U's. Remind me to take the train for a while...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Point defense?

          No, us Americans use a 12 gauge with modified choke and goose loads. Good out to 80 or 90 yards. Any half-decent duck hunter can take down a drone with the correct tool. And before you namby-pambys whimper about collateral damage, there isn't any in competent hands. Please learn about the tool, and deployment thereof, before whining about it as a solution. Ta.

    3. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Point defense?

      Allow passengers to carry guns on planes and modify the windows to open. Problem solved.

      PS: I'm available for consulting - got a million ideas.

    4. ashdav

      Re: Point defense?

      Frikkin' lasers!

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Point defense?

        Brilliant! But how do we get the sharks all the way up there?

        1. Casca

          Re: Point defense?


          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Point defense?

            How do you get the sharks into the trebuchet?

            1. Blane Bramble

              Re: Point defense?


            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Point defense?

              "How do you get the sharks into the trebuchet?"

              Pumping would be my guess.

        2. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: Point defense?

          Wait for sea level rise due to emissions increased air traffic?

          Every cloud...…..

  12. Detective Emil
    Paris Hilton

    Security? Bueller?

    I initially read this as "security ballet", presuming it to be a more high-class form of security theatre (of which I had previously been unaware).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re. Point defense?

    What about: miniature air to air missiles? Ideally with RF sensors that detect the emissions from drone motors and the control electronics?

    Problem = solved!

    (scuttles off before the Men in Black read this)

  14. FPVUK

    No - a drone did not hit a Mexican airliner. NTSB found that the radome has not been fitted correctly. No drone was involved (I can't post links it seems so you'll need to Google it yourself).

    No drone has ever collided with an airliner.

    I totally agree that no drone was present in this Gatwick event. Our report can be seen on our Airprox Reality Check website (It is 2019205 - the third one down under October). Again - I can't post links so you'll need to Google it.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      You should be able to post links, I'm sure you can because I used to do.

      Anyway, here's your link embedded and quoted. 2019205

      The A320 pilot reports in the late stages of a manual ILS approach into Gatwick. They had taken on extra fuel due to reports of drone activity in the London TMA and had also been warned on ATIS and by the controller. There had been no reports of sightings recently. Passing about 350ft, slightly right of the centreline, the Captain exclaimed "drone". The F/O looked out and also saw a drone, directly in front of the aircraft, slightly to the left at a range of about 100m. Visual contact was maintained with the drone as it passed down the left side of the aircraft at the same level. The F/O is a drone enthusiast and identified the drone as a DJI Inspire. The crew were unable to perform an evasive manoeuvre due to the speed of the event. The F/O reported the drone sighting to ATC and the crew made a statement to the police after landing. The crew believed that if the autopilot had still been engaged, and they were on the centreline, there was a very high probability that they would have struck the drone.

      1. FPVUK

        Thanks Danny, but no that's not our website. The website is AirproxRealityCheck DOT org

        We said:

        This is an eyewitness report from the aircraft flight crew only. There is no corroborating evidence. No photographic evidence.

        Empirical data from ground sensors shows that no DJI drone was present in this location at or around this time. ARC are in contact with the owners of this official data and provided it to UKAB some weeks prior to publication. UKAB never made contact with them and published a demonstrably false airprox report regardless.

      2. Rasslin ' in the mud

        I think he meant "Doesn't know how"

        "You should be able to post links, I'm sure you can because I used to do." (Insert Dunce Cap icon here.)

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. sbt Silver badge

          Computer says no

          According to the comments guidelines, you need a minimum of 100 accepted comments to add links to your posts.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge


        In other words the air crew were primed before they even took off.

        Priming is a classic psychological phenomenon. You see 'something' so it becomes what you were told to expect to see (see the bank robbery film where the baddies are armed with bananas and a zucchini, but that's not what viewers describe)

        The rise in reports of drone sightings around airports worldwide is directly proportional to the decrease of reports of birds

  15. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Aldi drone

    I bought a £50 drone from Aldi to better investigate how to down police drones surveilling protestors. I used to be a protestor and the technology stirred interest, especially when it was used against us but also what use it could be for us. I can definitively reveal a £50 drone is no use to anyone except a bored child. I got a lot of footage of me running after it after it reached 50m high and crashed 200m away. If you tether it with dental floss then you can run a cable across a steep height. Dental floss certainly makes finding it easier.

    It will carry a mobile phone if you are prepared to lose that phone, you can block it fairly easily, but it is great as a fan in summer, and for scaring mice indoors.

    I live near a field where people with expensive drones play. They have dogfights, and scare the bejesus out of me.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Aldi drone

      I have a less than £30 drone from China which has a 2MP camera and this drone is very useful for surveying my antennas and their fixings. I simply avoid flying it on windy days and it is just fine.

      The dental floss trick is like my own fishing line trick when I needed to get some antenna cable into position for a temporary ^ antenna at 80m. I flew the fishing line into position first and then pulled the cable over a tree branch. Up went the antenna and feeder no problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aldi drone

        > The dental floss trick is like my own fishing line trick when I needed to get some antenna cable into position for a temporary ^ antenna at 80m

        That must have been a long time ago. Local council H&S laws would by now require planning permission and the use of a licensed contractor with a cherry picker or scissor lift. Also the road would need closing to prevent people being sliced up when it falls on them.

  16. sbt Silver badge

    More theatre at airports than the West End

    Seems like this anti-drone technology is worth about as much as the passenger screening processes. Not great, considering the costs.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: More theatre at airports than the West End

      Because it failed to detect an imaginary drone?

  17. eldakka Silver badge

    Whither the £4m drone detection system?
    The're still on the way from Eastern Europe, in the back of a lorry. They should be here any day now. But the binoculars are still on backorder.

  18. herman Silver badge


    The aircraft turbulence probably killed the drone.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Turbulence

      If it had, there would be wreckage ... which undoubtedly the authorities would proudly display, to great fanfare. They didn't, therefore it doesn't exist. Which isn't surprising, because there was very probably no drone in the first place.

      (Why do I have the feeling that many of you WANT these mysterious drones to exist?)

  19. SimonF

    DJI Database

    If it was a DJI drone then (unless it has been modded) it would have refused to takeoff in that spot without an auth code being sent to a mobile phone.

    DJI would know who was flying it?

    1. The Original Steve

      Re: DJI Database

      DJI sell products that's literally detect all DJI products (and I think other 3rd party ones too) to airports and other government and related organisations.

      DJI drones literally broadcast their location and serial number in real time which their AeroScope product picks up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DJI Database

      So a DJ Inspire is several thousand pounds worth of fancy camera toting drone - either a professional photographer or someone carrying out a professional survey. I would venture that its unlikely to be used by a 'bad' person on grounds of cost and the inbuilt geofencing etc.

      So either the CAA accidentally forgot to tell the pilot about their runway center line survey and have kept quiet out of embarrassment, or it could have been a clone (negating the geofencing issue) - in which case we can add copyright infringement to the charge sheet when their nefarious operators are caught.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: DJI Database

        Or, and far more likely, the supposed "drone" was actually a bird. Or a bit of trash. Or a bug on the windscreen. Or a fly in the cockpit. Or a floater in the pilot's eye. Or any number of other things.

  20. tiggity Silver badge

    Just make a few cockpit cameras mandatory

    Then there will be photographic proof (or not) of any near misses

    Things are hard to identify at speed nd in non ideal lighting conditions (a lot of the year with dismal UK weather) and a bit of evidence would help, either to confirm lots of drone activity or show air crew were "mis-identifying"

  21. mpentler

    What's the betting the drone detectors are just mythical like TV detector vans? :-)

  22. ForthIsNotDead

    Questions hang over Gatwick Airport after low level drone near-miss report

    I'm at Gatwick Airport RIGHT NOW, and I've just looked out of the windows of the gate where I'm currently waiting for my flight, and I can categorically state that there are *NO* questions whatsoever visible over the airport. There's a few planes flying around, but you'd expect that, what with it being an airport an' all - but definately no questions.

    You can take it from me. It's this sort of FAKE NEWS that gives El Reg and their merry band of hacks a bad name!

  23. anothercynic Silver badge


    ... This didn't happen on/too near airport property (from the graphic it looks like a field that is outside the airport boundary), the Gatwick anti-drone system wouldn't be deployed (or wouldn't be *able* to be deployed) anyway. However, a DJI Inspire is a big drone. It's not a toy. But unless someone can show me the DJI no-fly map for Gatwick, I'd say someone deployed a drone and was smart enough to leave tout de suite and not make a fuss. If the CAA did something stupid then it would not surprise me if they shut up to cover their own arses.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    much-vaunted drone detection systems deployed

    perhaps they're like that first drone last Xmas, i.e. don't exist?

  25. spold Silver badge

    Teh Money...


    management about the £4m-£5m they reportedly spent on anti-drone measures.


    They hired 100 naturalists with big butterfly nets.

    I nearly said naturists but that's a completely different vision. And not quite the same "take-off".

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