Law enforcement authorities must play a strong role to ensure there are suitable deterrents in place for those flying recreational drones to prevent danger to passenger aircraft, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday.
Risks posed by the increasing use of drones were highlighted in October when a drone hit an aircraft landing at a Canadian airport and there have been several near-misses between drones and passenger planes in Europe.
“This is something we do not want to see continuing,” Rob Eagles, director of air traffic management infrastructure at IATA told journalists on Tuesday.
“We see a strong role for law enforcement. One of the concerns we have is the unprofessional operation of small recreational drones because people do not understand the risks they could have against manned aviation,” he said.
As well as fines, the registration of drone users and technology to prevent drones from straying into unauthorized areas could lessen the risk.
“There has to be an active deterrent so people understand the responsibility they bear and the risks associated with irresponsible use of small recreational drones,” he said, adding that IATA was also seeking to raise awareness and educate users.
Airlines and cargo companies also see opportunities from commercial drones, Celine Hourcade, head of cargo transformation at IATA said. She highlighted examples such as for the last mile for small parcel deliveries, transporting goods to remote or isolated areas and on routes which are not economically viable for larger aircraft.
“It’s not about replacing current aviation but complementing the fleet of current airlines or new entrants,” she said, pointing to companies such as DHL, UPS, Amazon and Alibaba which are trialing drone deliveries.
Airlines and airports could also use drones to help inspect aircraft and runways or even bird-shaped drones to chase off wildlife, thus improving safety and reducing cost.
For example, using drones could make visual aircraft inspections 20 times faster. Typical inspections currently last 6 to 10 hours and cost airlines $10,000 for each hour the plane is on the ground, IATA said.