From Wikipedia's page on the Gatwick drone incident:

Between 19 and 21 December 2018, hundreds of flights were cancelled at Gatwick Airport near London, England, following reports of drone sightings close to the runway. The reports caused major disruption, affecting approximately 140,000 passengers and 1,000 flights.

I assume that drones can crash into aircraft, negatively impacting the safety of flights.

  1. Suppose airport staff report sightings of a drone. What should the airport do?
  2. Is this considered an emergency? Why or why not?
  3. Can other planes request clearance to avoid the area?
  4. Have any documented instances of drones resulting in injury to or loss of crew, passengers, or plane?
  • $\begingroup$ I think you have your own answer already. Break a window, damage a wing, damage a control surface, damage an engine, all leading to an impact on safe landing. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @CrossRoads Have their been instances of this? Or is it purely theoretical? There's (2) similar questions on laser, and I'd like to know more, except about drones. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @CrossRoads The question is now edited. What do you think? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ See this article on drone suspected in helicopter crash fortune.com/2018/02/16/south-carolina-drone-helicopter-crash Besides the headline, the article also discussed 4 other drone related events. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ Possible drone collision with a 737 in Mexico: bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-13/… $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


Re the title question, a plane hitting a crow is enough to take out an engine, as shown in the following video.

Crows weigh about 500–600g. A drone such as a DJI Phantom weighs two to three times as much and isn't nearly so squishy.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting! Thanks for the new perspective! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 2:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW They will halt operations if there are flocks of birds hanging around the runways. But the main distinction is that birds can be trusted to fly around more or less randomly, informed by self-preservation; they also mostly don't hover in one spot, so each individual bird is a transitory event. You already know that somebody flying a drone around an airport is an a-hole and you have to take into account the possibility of it being deliberately flown at planes. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ @TomMcW there's also maliciousness - imagine that same drone carrying gunpower or ball bearings or a bag of flour targetting an engine intake. Or paint on the windscreen. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ When I first read this, I thought it said "a plane hitting a cow is enough to take out an engine." $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 17:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .