Who is responsible for a crash between a drone and a private plane or commercial jet?
Air-traffic controllers have plenty to do safely coordinating arriving and departing aircraft, as well as vehicles on the airport operations area. With the surge in the numbers of these small, unmanned aircraft being used in American air space, their jobs, and those of pilots and other airline personnel, have become exponentially more difficult and dangerous.
As recently reported on the editorial and front page of the Washington Post, there have been many “near misses” at major US international airports. Herndon Virginia airport injury lawyer Doug Landau notes that while there are international conventions regarding injuries caused during flights, the advent of drones will require updating both American and international laws to keep apace with technology.
Since many drones are small and fly at altitudes under the radar, it is extremely difficult to avoid contact. Eyelets have reported not seeing the unmanned the craft until they are nearly upon these hovering objects. Lawyer Landau adds, “When you factor in the speed and momentum of a commercial aircraft, with the invisibility of a small unmanned craft that does not emit a beacon or warning lights, you have an air crash disaster in the making.”
So what is the solution? Landau advocates that, “Drones should be equipped with the technology so they can be seen, heard and otherwise sensed (and safely avoided) by commercial and private aircraft. If a drone operator is flying unmanned aircraft without this safety technology, they should be fined. If you have to buy a license for a remote control airplane, it seems a small surcharge on drones is not asking too much of hobbyists and professionals. The best protection is prevention.”
Landau adds, “if a jet or small airplane is taken out by unmanned drone, who is going to pay for the harms and losses? The drone operator probably has no insurance for such a loss, and limited assets. The airlines, or aircraft operator, will assert that they are not liable, as they were not negligent, and were not the cause of the crash, injuries, property damage or death.” Clearly, the FAA and related to governmental agencies need to get on top of this issue, before disaster strikes.