LONDON – Frankfurt-Main International Airport Germany was forced to cancel 143 flights and divert 48 incoming aircraft because of a drone sighting within the airport’s perimeter.

The drone sighting was reported by several pilots and the German police. A helicopter was brought in to assist in the search.  

This is not the first recorded drone incident in Frankfurt. In March 2019, flights were grounded for 30 minutes after a drone was spotted south of the airfield, causing the cancelation of 60 scheduled flights.

Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

The German Air Traffic Control (DFL) has reported 64 drone incidents in 2016, rising to 88 in 2017, and climbing about to 125 in 2018.

Drone disruptions have become a common sight in European airspace. A major incident occurred in December 2018 when London-Gatwick Airport (LGW) was closed for three days due to done sightings in the area.

This led to the cancellation of 760 flights and disruption for an estimated 110,000 passengers.

On January 8, flights were also suspended at London-Heathrow for an hour after reports of a drone sitting north of the airport.

In March, the British government imposed a no-fly zone covering around all British airports, prohibiting the flying of drones within 5km of any airport’s perimeter.

The use of drones is perfectly legal in both Germany and the United Kingdom; however, the rules governing these machines are quite strict.

In Germany, it is illegal to fly drones over Government Buildings, prisons, hospitals, crowds, and railway or road infrastructure. Drones must be kept in the operator’s line of sight at all times.

The question drone operators are asking is, what lies ahead for the future of flying drones?

There have been talks about technology to stop drones in certain areas such as around airports, and proposals to limit drones to licensed commercial operators only.

It is very hard to predict what the future holds for the responsible use and ownership of drones. As the number of incidents is on the rise, it is probably fair to say something will have to be done before long.