Reports of ‘Drone Activity’ at 3,500 Feet Halt Newark Airport Flights

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Reports of “drone activity” temporarily stopped flights at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday night.

At 7:03 p.m., the airport reported on Twitter that normal operations had resumed after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “briefly held” arrivals because of “reports of drone activity north of the airport earlier [in the] evening.”

“We’re coordinating with the FAA & fully supporting all federal law enforcement authorities as they investigate this incident,” the airport said.

Citing the FAA, Bloomberg reported that a drone “was spotted over nearby Teterboro Airport north of Newark at an altitude of 3,500 feet.” The FAA also reported “drone activity on the final,” meaning it was “near the approach path for one or both of Newark’s parallel runways,” writes Bloomberg. The first FAA notice to delay flights came at 4:52 p.m., and the FAA said landings were resuming less than an hour later at 5:40 p.m.

Recently, following similar reports in the U.K. at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, DJI issued a notice to urge caution in evaluating initial reports of drone sightings, considering many of them turn out to be false. DJI points out that some culprits have included a plastic bag (U.K., 2016), structural failure (Mozambique, 2017), a bat (Australia, 2017) and a balloon (New Zealand, 2018).

”This recent rash of unconfirmed drone sightings may reflect the power of suggestion more than actual use of drones at airports,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs. “As more airports and airlines use drones for their own inspection, surveying and security purposes, aviation stakeholders must determine how to respond to drone sightings in ways that help ensure safety but cause the least disruption.”

According to a CNN report on the Newark incident, the FAA first said there were reports of two drones and then two reports of one drone, coming from crews of both Southwest and United Airlines flights. Referencing this report on Twitter, Schulman pointed out the unlikeliness of the situation: “Two drones at once. In the dark. At 3500 feet altitude. It’s very cold outside, below freezing; not the kind of weather for flying drones. This is just not credible.”

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