WASHINGTON - The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday that 43 flights into New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport were required to hold after drone sightings at a nearby airport on Tuesday, while nine flights were diverted. The incident comes as major U.S. airports are assessing the threat of drones and have been holding meetings to address the issue. The issue of drones impacting commercial air traffic came to the fore after London's second-busiest airport, Gatwick Airport, was severely disrupted in December when drones were sighted on three consecutive days. An FAA spokesman said that Tuesday's event lasted for 21 minutes. The flights into Newark, the 11th-busiest U.S. airport, were suspended after a drone was seen flying at 3,500 feet over nearby Teterboro Airport, a small regional airport about 17 miles (27.3 km) away that mostly handles corporate jets and private planes.
A man has been charged with flying a drone near Heathrow Airport on 24 December. George Rusu is accused of using a drone on a field near the runway just days after a scare at Gatwick grounded more than 1,000 flights. He has been charged with flying a "small unmanned aircraft without permission of air traffic control". Mr Rusu, 38, from Hillingdon, will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on Tuesday. The alleged incident happened just three days after Gatwick Airport fully reopened on December 21, following three days of chaos affecting about 140,000 passengers.
London's airports don't want a repeat of the drone panic that left Gatwick travelers grounded for days, and they're willing to spend loads of cash to keep their skies safe. Heathrow and Gatwick have spent millions of pounds on "military-grade" anti-drone systems in the wake of the scare. It's not clear what they've purchased, but it might be a Rafael Drone Dome system that can jam drone communications. The company told the Times that it had seen interest from UK customers, but it's not clear if that included the two airports. It's still unclear how much of a threat drones posed during the Gatwick incident, or if the owners even intended anything malicious.
An estimated 7 million drones will be flying in the skies by 2020; Claudia Cowan reports on the new technology being developed to keep airports safe. But some people either don't care or use drones to intentionally disrupt airport operations. Last December, drone sightings at London's Gatwick Airport forced a three-day shutdown, and canceled flights left thousands of stranded passengers scrambling. No one has been arrested in the case, and this past April, investigators said it could have been an inside job. In recent months, suspected or confirmed drone activity has grounded flights in Dubai, New Zealand, Israel, and at Newark Airport in New Jersey.
A British Airways aircraft was possibly hit by a drone Sunday near Heathrow airport as it was coming to land, which is likely to increase demands for greater checks on the flights of the devices. The Airbus A320 flight from Geneva, carrying 132 passengers and five crew members, appears to have not been significantly impacted and was cleared for its next flight, according to news reports. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said it was aware of "a possible incident" with a drone at Heathrow on Sunday, which is subject to investigation by the Metropolitan Police. It reminded drone users of the country's "dronecode," which prohibits drones from flying above 400 feet (about 122 meters) and requires them to stay away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields. "It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment," the CAA said in a statement Sunday.