King Shaka Durban Airport Drone security guard

King Shaka International Airport. Image: File.

Durban airport on high alert after drone spotted flying near King Shaka

Durban Airport Management have told drone pilots to “back off”, after a drone was spotted in King Shaka airspace on Monday.

King Shaka Durban Airport Drone security guard

King Shaka International Airport. Image: File.

Officials on duty at King Shaka Airport in Durban have warned there could be a “serious incident” if rogue drone pilots continue to fly their systems near the facility, as we saw on Monday afternoon.

Last week, we saw an unidentified drone wreak havoc at London Gatwick Airport in the UK. Both police and airport management were unable to stop the device as it flew in and out of the runway’s air-space. Simply shooting down a drone isn’t an option, given the dangers of what could happen to commercial airliners nearby.

Drone spotted at King Shaka Aiport could cause “serious” trouble

Now, through either ignorance of impudent mischief, it seems like we’re seeing something similar on our shores. Thankfully, no flights were affected on Monday – but, as TimesLive report – Durban Airport Management issued a “cease and desist” notice to all drone operators as a precaution:

“The use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) has been reported near King Shaka International Airport precinct, which could lead to a serious incident.”

“We call upon drone operators to abide to the applicable laws that govern the flying or operating of drones or remotely piloted aircraft. We encourage community members to be vigilant with the use of RPAS and to report any unauthorised activities.”

Durban Airport Management

How can we police drones near airports?

Current law forbids drone pilots from flying within 10 kilometres of an airport, helipad or airfield. The same goes for any region defined as “controlled airspace”, too.

Tougher regulation may soon be the next step in tackling this sort of behaviour. As it stands, almost anyone can go out and buy a drone for personal usage. They don’t have to take any sort of skills test, nor do they have to register the item (like they would have to with a vehicle).

Tightening the belt on these two fields could be the next step. The Gatwick incident was a major eye-opener, as around 1 000 flights were disrupted or cancelled in total. Over 100 000 holidaymakers were forced to rearrange their plans over Christmas.

A repeat of this chaos in South Africa would have a devastating effect on the regional economy, too. The tourist season has reached its peak in Durban, and any major disruptions over the next month or so would be the worst kind of nightmare scenario imaginable for the airport.