Wandering drone briefly closes Washington, DC airport

The airport experienced 70 delays and five cancellations among inbound flights and 74 delays and five cancellations of outbound flights around 3 p.m. Thursday, but it’s unclear how many of those were caused by drone activity, and neither the FAA or the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. , which operates the airport, would provide information on how many flights may have been affected.

The context: The United States, for the most part, has avoided extended airport closures due to unauthorized drones, but other countries have experienced nightmare scenarios. Perhaps most disruptive was a 2018 incident at London’s Gatwick Airport, where drones near runways forced flights to be grounded for three days as authorities searched for the culprits. Some 1,000 flights had to be canceled or diverted and airlines operating at the airport lost millions in the ordeal.

After this incident, US officials began developing plans on how to mitigate drone threats at US airports, ultimately landing on the clearance of air marshals to use the counter-drone equipment of the DOD. But years later, those plans are largely still in the formation stage — it wasn’t until March 2021 that the FAA chose five airports to test the counter-drone technology. (Reagan National is not one of them.)

Authority expires: The power of federal law enforcement to fight malicious drones expires in October, and federal agencies have asked lawmakers to extend it. Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Samantha Vinograd recently told Congress that the TSA has reported nearly 2,000 drone sightings near US airports since 2021. Pilots had to take “65 evasive actions” after the drones went missing. came too close or disrupted planes, she said.

Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this report.


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