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Dubai launches ‘drone hunter’ to secure airport

Drones have come a long way in a very short period of time. Like many items in the world of tech, drones are a concept that have gone from quirky ideas to real-world practical deployment. The Dubai airport is the third busiest in the world, and it’s got a problem with drones. Specifically, unauthorized drone activity in its airspace, which can cause critical safety and security concerns. A wayward drone sucked into a jet engine can mean disaster.

So they’ve decided to go drone hunting!

According to CNN Money, The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has decided to test out a “drone hunter.” This airborne bot has thermal and infrared imaging to seek out drones that are in the wrong place at the wrong time. How does it work? Once it locates a rogue drone, it follows it back to its launch point, then relays the location to police. No offensive weapons are necessary. If trial testing works out, the program could be in use by the end of the year.

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“It’s a few people that engage in this kind of activity. People want to explore how far their drone can go without realizing they are violating the airspace,” Salim Al Mansouri, senior aerodrome inspector at the civil aviation authority said to CNN. “It’s a safety issue and people are losing money because of one person’s irresponsible behavior.”

Dubai’s most recent closure ran 90 minutes on October 29, and 22 flights had to be routed to other airports. Besides the inconvenience to those on board, there is enormous cost involved as well. Each time the airport has to close, it costs about $1 million dollars … per minute.

Other airports have taken different measures to tracking drones — in the Netherlands, they trained bald eagles to detect and dispose of unwanted drones. As CNN notes, as more drones share the skies with planes, there are greater concerns. In April, a suspected drone hit a plane as it was coming into Heathrow in London. The Airbus A320 landed safely. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says drone/plane close encounters have, as you might expect, risen dramatically in the last couple of years. In the five months ending on January 31, there were close to 600 incidents. New rules have been introduced to lower that number.

With new technology comes new rules of engagement. Drones are used to help police and the military, though we are still waiting for our drone delivered pizza. However, if drones are misused, the consequences for airline passengers could prove tragic.