A drone passed about 100 meters (330 feet) from a Lufthansa airplane carrying 108 passengers as it was preparing to land at Warsaw’s Frederic Chopin Airport today (July 21). The unnerved plane’s crew told air controllers to “take care of your airspace” according to industry publication The Aviation Herald after spotting the drone at an altitude of about 2500 feet (750m).
The Embraer jet, which was flying in from Munich, safely landed about three minutes later, but a drone collision–especially if it was sucked into the plane’s engine–would have been extremely dangerous. The air controllers in Warsaw were apologetic, but the airport’s spokesperson told Polish news service TVN24 (link in Polish) that they don’t have the capabilities to observe the entire city and nearby towns if “some idiot” sends a drone in front of a landing plane.
Reuters reported that Polish police and military helicopters sent to the airport were not able to find the drone, but the police have launched an investigation into the incident. The drone operator could face up to eight years in prison, according to a Warsaw police spokesperson.
Drones operated by hobbyists and other civilians are becoming a dangerous nuisance in the airspace. Last week, firefighters in California had to ground their aircraft for 25 minutes during a massive wildfire after crews spotted five drones in the vicinity.
The European Union is preparing regulations on the use of commercial drones, to be presented later this year.