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Footage Reveals Drone Aircraft Nearly Downed Passenger Plane in 2004 206

Posted by timothy
from the statute-of-limitations dept.
Newly released footage, writes reader Wowsers, shows that in 2004 "A German drone aircraft was within meters of bringing down a passenger aircraft with 100 people on board. The link shows stills from onboard the drone. The incident had been hushed up for nine years, and is creating waves in Germany now the footage has been leaked out."
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Footage Reveals Drone Aircraft Nearly Downed Passenger Plane in 2004

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @07:56AM (#43903661)
    I have searched for this in german web pages. Beside aero.de and spiegel.de there is next to NO german web pages mentionning this and a lot of english pages. In fact it isn't even on google news in german...
  • Yes it is real (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:00AM (#43903693)

    No it's not a Photoshop. The drone is not equiped with an automatic preventation system against collisions. The accident nearly happened in Afghanistan. The whole discussion came up by the mistakes which were made and the money which was spend on the Eurohawk project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Grumman_RQ-4_Global_Hawk)

    • by Rob Riggs (6418)
      If drones were equipped with automatic collision prevention systems, would those same systems not be used by opposition forces to detect the presence of these drones? The whole point of most of these drones is stealthy surveillance and/or attack.
      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        That depends on how the system is implemented. An electro-optical array capable of spotting another jet half a mile out would give sufficient time to dodge.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        If drones were equipped with automatic collision prevention systems, would those same systems not be used by opposition forces to detect the presence of these drones? The whole point of most of these drones is stealthy surveillance and/or attack.

        in practice these big drones aren't meant for fighting war against equal force that would have light surface to air missiles. they're meant for following and "taking care of" guys in land cruisers who have ak's.

        and if you have presence of drone detector ticking 24/7.. well, the detector is pretty useless then.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        An automatic collision prevention system is entirely passive. It doesn't transmit, only receives transponder and possibly ACARS transmissions. There is absolutely no reason why a modern drone, presumably with a fully digital wideband radio shouldn't receive transponder transmissions from civilian airplanes and implement automated collision avoidance as a standard feature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:06AM (#43903743)

    The video on YouTube is dated Dec 2006...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NOar22TX2k

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:27AM (#43903939)

      99% of the Daily Mail's web content is stuff they found on the internet at lunch time, so I assume "newly released" means "someone just emailed us this with some cat memes".

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      The video on YouTube is dated Dec 2006...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NOar22TX2k

      the footage is apparently newly released.

      I do hope you understand the difference between recording footage and "releasing"(or leaking) footage. it became relevant because the canceled drone project could have caused similar situations, thus it would have been unlikely for it to be approved for use inside europe.

      • fuck I can't read apparently. mod down..

      • by bkr1_2k (237627)

        You're aware that the "cancelled drone program" was for a EuroHawk, which is only similar to this drone in the way an RC plane is similar to a 747. The EuroHawk is a high altitude, all-weather, long endurance aircraft with payloads that weigh more than the entire aircraft depicted in this video.

        Global/Euro Hawk not only has collision avoidance capabilities but wouldn't be in the same airspace as the civilian aircraft shown. There is no possibility that the Euro Hawk "could have caused similar situations".

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:08AM (#43903759) Journal

    The only way flying cars for people will work is with massive computerized control, which is being built into ground cars, too. Best get on with it.

    Of course, this one being military grade could probably shut it off anyway, if it had it.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:09AM (#43903781) Journal

    I wonder if it's merely a coincidence that this...became available... at roughly the same time that Euro Hawk's ICAO-togetherness issues became insurmountable(it certainly would be a convenient one, if somebody wanted to twist that particular knife, very good footage at a very good time), or whether photogenic leaks and procurement debacles are both more or less continuous phenomena and so necessarily overlap from time to time?

    • It became available on YouTube in 2006. People are paying attention to it now because of the Euro Hawk's issues. Nothing terribly coincidental.
  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:13AM (#43903815)
    It has occurred to me, thus it has occurred to government, that a drone-related 'accident' is a statistical certainty if their use continues to grow. It will be peddled through the news outlets as an unfortunate sacrifice for your national security. "Think of all the lives it's saved", "Piloted planes collide too", and maybe "Casualties in the War on Terror" may be used to church it up.
    • I'm guessing the military industrial complex who is more concerned about this. It's the people who make the drones that want to keep the gravy train of spending tons of taxpayer dollars on expensive toys to fight the war on whatever our paranoia has fixated on. If we said "Wait, these things can KILL people!?!?! SHUT IT DOWN!" the government would immediately find some other campaign donors and some other way to stay in office, then immediately would say "Sure! No problem!"
      • by dcw3 (649211)

        Have you considered that many of these drones are much less expensive than their manned counterparts? Have you considered that w/o a human onboard, the payload ability increases dramatically? Have you considered that while you may not like some of the ongoing military actions, that some are actually worth fighting, or are you just letting your anti-military bias get the best of you? Not all UAVs are built to kill people. Sure there's plenty of room to cut the military budgets, and we should start by lis

    • by cusco (717999)
      Keep in mind that the drone belonged to the military. The footage would have been classified and the plane crash would have been attributed to "insurgents" or "terrorists" and used to justify yet more military spending. Witnesses or survivors who saw the incident and talked about the drone would be labeled "conspiracy theorists" and immediately booked on Art Bell's show to guarantee their tin hat credentials.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:15AM (#43903827)

    The video exists on YouTube since December 2006

  • by cozytom (1102207) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:19AM (#43903867)

    Current technology won't separate the aircraft well enough. The drones are not about to see and avoid like people. Think of control delays (speed of light seems pretty fast until you realize the pilot is thousands of miles away, you have to get the video image to them, and then the pilot has to react, then the reaction command has to get back to the aircraft, it isn't seconds, but certainly many milliseconds).

    Then you can also see how fast the two aircraft are converging. It was easy to miss the little dot, and it was really darn big by the time the drone could make it out. Of course by then, there wasn't much either could do. And what is with that big antenna or whatever blocking the view?

    One day a drone will hit a passenger carrying aircraft. Who is gonna scream then? Lets let the technology catch up, and not put these things in civilian airspace.

    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:33AM (#43903999) Homepage

      If you're flying ANYTHING in a manner where a millisecond response time matters, you're flying wrong. If you're flying CLOSE ENOUGH to things that a millisecond error in your response is critical, you're flying too close or completely off the flight plan.

      This is why we don't take chances with air-traffic-control. It's not unusual for planes to be MILES away from each other and still be called a "near miss". At the sorts of speeds you're talking about, you cover WAY TOO MUCH space too quickly to be able to "get out of the way" - you should just not be within miles of each other.

      As such, even UAV's are subject to the same kinds of safety distances. This one obviously a) wasn't on a flightplan, b) was straying off its flightplan or c) was misdirected by (or ignorant of) the local equivalent of air-traffic-control.

      One day a drone will hit a passenger-carrying aircraft. One day a passenger jet will take off with both engines hatches undone, causing an engine failure and potential fire in both engines when it snaps off and damages the engine (London Heathrow, last week). One day someone will get on a plane and bomb it (not 9/11 - think Lockerbie back in the 1980's!). These things will all happen. The way we reduce casualties is NOT to ban planes (although, obviously, that works perfectly!!), but to apply controls. In this case, the controls already exist and are in place. If people didn't follow them? Take away their UAV pilot's licence.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        Isn't the main point that such things are currently not under any sort of traffic control?
        • by wagnerrp (1305589)
          No military aircraft operate under civilian traffic control.
          • by dbIII (701233)
            Frequently they do outside war zones - there's even an instance of a U2 entering Australian airspace from above!
            If that makes no sense consider that it's because civilian airspace has a ceiling, which is considered absurdly high, but the U2 could fly above it.
          • by tompaulco (629533)

            No military aircraft operate under civilian traffic control.

            Substitute "No" with "Almost all" and you will be correct. Except in emergencies, war and in Military Operation Areas, military aircraft cooperate with local Air Traffic Control. Even in designated Military Operation Areas, military will often convey their intentions to ATC, as civilian aircraft may still use the airspace, sometimes even when it is active. Often there are altitudes or particular areas where the operations will be occurring and ATC will be made aware.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        This is why we probably won't ever have flying cars; when you give each aircraft its own "safe zone" to accomodate user error and bumpy air, there's not enough space up there for one aircraft per household.

        • by Richy_T (111409)

          Nonsense. There's plenty of space. You not only have a lot more space for vehicles in the x-y plane, you also have the whole altitude thing to play with meaning that you can practically ensure that it's very unlikely that vehicles are on a collision course (which happens as a matter of necessity for ground-based vehicles). As for user error? Computer control becomes a whole lot easier when you don't have to worry about pedestrians, cyclists, corners and other random obstacles.

          There's other reasons we're not

          • by tompaulco (629533)
            The volume of air from the surface to about 27,000 feet is 4.2 billion kilometers. So, if we estimate that there are about 2 billion households in the world, then everybody would have 2 cubic kilometers to call their own. The rules are a little tricky regarding horizontal and vertical separation, because horizontal separation is required only when vertical is not met. If we place everyone at the 300m vertical separation limit (and round slightly), then everyone can have a plane of about 8 square kilometers
        • by KGIII (973947)

          Well, if they fly at different altitudes it should be all good. It would take some logistics work, probably via a centralized computer system, but it could work though I expect we'll need to restrict the airspace over congested areas like cities. I am not a fan of, am actually a proponent of, flying cars though. I don't think the solution is adding more individual energy consuming devices to the planet.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Tell Congress to stop taking chances with air-traffic control. They are the ones that cut funding for air-traffic control because they wanted to make a "statement". Apparently the statement was "Hi there, we're clueless about the proper function of government, be sure to vote for us next time."

    • by cusco (717999)
      If the pilot is "thousands of miles away" then the thing is being operated by geostationary satellite link and now you ARE talking about seconds of reaction time. Having said that, I think that the small ones like these are normally operated locally, being integrated into search-and-destroy missions.
  • by tggzzz (2940743) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:44AM (#43904091)
    It was "leaked" to youtube in 2006 and now has been viewed 217,648 times. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NOar22TX2k [youtube.com] The Daily Wail makes its money from people that don't have anything significant to worry about in their lives - The Wail gives them something to worry about. A standard modus operandi is to find something that is dangerous in excess, write a scare story, and completely ignore that it was made illegal several years previously.
    • by gtall (79522)

      It is things like the Daily Wail that brings out the genius of the Electric Monk (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams). An Electric Monk believes things for you. It sounds like we need it to also worry for you so you can get on with the business of life knowing that base is covered.

  • by oobayly (1056050) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @08:52AM (#43904193)

    They never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    Alarmist headline - check
    Photo completely irrelevant to the story (32,250lb Eurohawk instead of this photo [wikipedia.org]) - check
    Incorrect description of events - check
    Nonsensical sentence - "The drone passes under the left wing of the engine" - check

    If you insist on reading a mindless tabloid, at least read one with T&A [page3.com]

  • Governments apparently deem everything "classified" simply so people don't know what they're doing. It seems like there should be more specific justification than just an overall secrecy blanket. eh?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It took nine years to leak this information. Government efforts to keep information secret was more successful in times past, Governments want to censor everything that is detrimental to them and their increasingly dictatorial rule over the common people. That censorship is getting harder as time goes by, because of the ubiquity of smart phones and other Internet connected camera devices. In earlier times, when the government caught someone with a camera that may have taken some pictures that they did not w

  • One of the issues in the article is that the drone does not have a TCAS [wikipedia.org]. According to international rules it is not required to have one.

    It is a type of airborne collision avoidance system mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization to be fitted to all aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of over 5,700 kg (13,000 lb) or authorized to carry more than 19 passengers.

    Most light aircraft, which can and have brought down passenger aircraft, are not required to have it either as they are smaller than 5,700 kg and carry less than 19 passengers.

    A stupid drone pilot took a drone where it should not have gone and some people are trying to use it to show drones are dangerous. Pilots of small aircraft do that all the time and people are not dem

  • by nothings (597917) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:32PM (#43907077) Homepage
    While the actual incident -- a near-collision -- may be worth debating*, note that both the headline and summary any reference to collision, using "nearly downed" and almost "bringing down", sensationalizing it into seeming like something more.

    * It's not really; a near-collision with an out-of-control flying machine can happen from any flying machine that can go out of control (ps: that's all of them). It's just the cost of doing business.

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