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Passenger flight dodges three drones before landing in Bilbao

Source: El Pais - Wed 25th May 2016
Passenger flight dodges three drones before landing in Bilbao

Police in the Basque Country region of northern Spain say they have failed to find the owners of three drones that got in the way of a commercial flight landing at Bilbao airport on Saturday.

The captain of the Lufthansa flight alerted ground control to the fact that the devices were operating inside protected airspace and flying at an altitude of 900 meters. The airplane was forced to dodge the drones to avoid a collision, say police.

There is no accurate description of the drones, but a device capable of flying at an altitude of nearly one kilometer is necessarily a professional aerial vehicle that could weigh at least two or three kilograms, representing a serious threat in the event of a collision against an aircraft flying at 250km/h.

The Airbus 320, which was covering the Frankfurt-Bilbao route, was forced to make an evasive maneuver after spotting the drones in skies that happened to be clear that day.

Following the incident, airport authorities called the Ertzaintza – the regional police force – which sent out a helicopter in a fruitless search for the drones. Ground patrols were unable to locate the owners, either. Because no formal complaint has been filed, the search has been discontinued, police sources told the EFE news agency.

The case now falls back to the Spanish Air Navigation Agency (AESA), which has powers over restricted airspace near airports. National legislation prohibits any aerial vehicles from entering this space or from entering an eight-kilometer radius around airports. Drones are also banned from flying over populated areas or ascending higher than 120 meters.

This is not the first such incident. Last March, a drone nearly crashed into an airplane at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

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