An investigation is currently underway attempting to determine whether or not a Boeing 737 jetliner that was getting ready to land in Tijuana, Mexico slammed into a unmanned aerial drone. The nose of the 737–800 airplane had clearly been torn open due to what looked like a mid-air collision.
The flight, number 773 out of Guadalajara, was operating on Wednesday of this week and experienced a disturbance shortly before landing, according to a Bloomberg article. Crew members in a cabin recording can be overheard stating that there was a “pretty loud bang” before asking the control tower to visually inspect whether or not the nose of the plane was showing any damage.
The incident is still under investigation, according to Grupo Aeromexico. They told Bloomberg: “The exact cause is still being investigated. The aircraft landed normally and the passengers’ safety was never compromised.”
While nations have implemented laws and rules that prohibit drones from flying in obvious commercial air space, there are still millions of small drone devices being sold every year that can’t be tracked on radar. This makes it difficult in size and in scope for regulators and authorities to enforce these rules. Retail drone owners may not even know the rules or follow them, complicating things further.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration has shown a large increase in safety reports involving drones over the last few years. Groups in the aerospace industry have been lobbying the government to tighten regulations after video surfaced of a drone flying extremely close to an airliner near Las Vegas. Through June of this year, there have been about 6000 drone sightings by pilots and airline crews.
The US National Transportation Safety Board has already looked at one confirmed mid-air collision with a drone when an Army helicopter hit the device near Staten Island in September 2017. The damage from the incident was minor. A similar incident happened in Canada, when their transportation safety board concluded that a small drone hit a prop plane carrying six passengers near Quebec in October 2017. Despite the collision, that flight was able to land safely.
Finally, in February of this year, a helicopter crash landed in Charleston after attempting to evade a drone. While studies have shown that damage caused by these drones wasn’t likely to be catastrophic, it is an obvious safety risk that will continue to grow in nature as the popularity of drones continues.