Europe’s aviation authority to urgently study unmanned aircraft risks

© Charles Platiau
Europe is sounding the alarm over drone consumerism as its main safety aviation authority announced an urgent need to assess the extent of the growing safety risks associated with technology.

The announcement follows a spate of increasing aviation incidents involving very close calls with passenger planes. Aviation specialists are seeking to measure just how much damage a direct hit would cause.

This rising number of near misses has been attributed to a steady rise in the number and type of consumer-operated drones, as well as incomplete legislation governing what they can and cannot do. This problem will only grow, as new drone tech for leisure, photography, disaster monitoring and other uses expands.

In the United States, the FAA reported in August 2015 that drone sightings by passenger aircraft had doubled on a year before.

Underscoring the sharp need for the European assessment was a widely-reported incident last month when a British Airways plane on approach to London’s Heathrow Airport suffered an unconfirmed collision.

Last summer, a Lufthansa jet narrowly escaped a collision with a “black object” less than 100 meters away from the aircraft, which was on a descent toward Warsaw. And in early March 2016, a drone nearly collided with an A320 Airbus over Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will lead an inquiry into a number of hazards and safety measures associated with planes and drones – including how secure the plane’s windshield, engine and frame actually are in a collision.

READ MORE: Closest encounter yet: Drone nearly collides with A320 airliner above Paris

Dangers likewise involve birds, but research there has been done, while the prospect of a collision with an engine remains eerily under-researched.

Results of the investigation will be published closer to August, according to an EASA statement.