Dumb and Dumber: A Drone Flies Dangerously Close to an A380 During Take Off

Dumb and Dumber: A Drone Flies Dangerously Close to an A380 During Take Off

Albert Einstein used to say that “only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.” This video showing the largest commercial airliner flying feet away from a drone confirms the endless idiocy of some people.

What Happens in the Video?

The video, embedded below, shows an Airbus A380 taking off from the Plaine Magnien Airport located on the Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean. The A380 is the largest commercial airliner in the world and can carry more than 500 passengers in a typical three class seat configuration and up to 850 passengers in a densified all-economy cabin version. As the jumbo jet takes off from the runway 14, the prepositioned drone films the plane passing dangerously close at about 300 feet from the tip of the left wing. The airliner belongs to the Dubai-based company Emirates. It seems to be the 4:35 p.m. flight EK702 on regular schedule to Dubai airport.

The Airbus A380 of Emirates flight EK702 taking off from runway 14 in Mauritius Island.

The A380 passing next to the drone. The exact distance is difficult to evaluate but is dangerously close to the airliner.

Who Filmed and Published the Video?

As this point, there is no information about the identity of the pilot. The video had originally been published on Facebook by Thierry Paris who describes himself as an A380 captain for Air France. He wrote in the video caption (auto-translated): “That's what a little crazy guy managed to do with a drone in Mauritius. Hello flight safety!!!”

I contacted him and I will update this article if new details emerge from this story.

What Drone Was Used?

Any drone could have been used to film this video but the presence of some sort of digital zoom in the video (1:12) could indicate that the pilot used a Parrot Anafi. Unlike DJI, the Parrot drones are not equipped with geofencing capabilities. However, the DJI no-fly zone in the area is very small (see the map below) and the drone was flying just outside this perimeter anyway. Finally, flight restrictions can easily be hacked on consumer drones.

Note the approximate position of the drone (X) and the trajectory of the A380 taking off from runway 14 and heading to the south-east. The red circle indicates the no-fly zone as seen on the DJI system but we don't know what drone was used to film this video.

Conclusion

As usual, this type of story will surely fuel the fire of the anti-drone crowd. However, adding new regulations and restrictions won’t stop stupid people from doing this kind of things. Likes car and guns, drone are just objects that can be diverted by irresponsible people. All the homicide and DUI regulations don’t prevent certain people to commit murders and drive over the limits. Drones are here to stay and any attempt to ground them will fail. The main point is to work on the drone detection capabilities and the integration of these unmanned aircrafts in the national airspace. The business of drone detection is tricky but several companies are already offering solutions like the DJI AeroScope. Beyond that, drones will have to be properly identified and equipped with position reporting equipment such as miniature ADS-B and TCAS system (or based on GPS and cellular network). In the USA, the FAA is working on the issue but the federal government is not known for its decision speed. Hopefully, the official remote ID requirement system won’t be plagued by bureaucratic and technical non-sense otherwise, some drone pilots will continue to fly illegally. Let’s hope that the decision makers find the right balance between liberty and security.

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49 Comments

Mike Kelley's picture

This is both epic and beyond stupid at the same time. Epically stupid, maybe. Good lord.

Beautiful footage though...but holy lord...my brain is wrinkling at the stupidity

Robert Nurse's picture

"Stupid" doesn't even begin to describe this stunt. I don't have a drone, I don't fly them. I wouldn't mind though. But, that desire has be shelved because of all the regulation necessitated by this level of STUPIDITY! People always decry government "over regulation" and fail to lay blame at the feet of those that behave irresponsibly.

Steve Gould's picture

It's idiots like this who will ruin it for all of us. Hopefully no one gets killed in the process.

David Love's picture

Probably doesn't want to be recognized for that jerky camera movement that ruined the shot. So dumb and bad drone operator. Double threat.

Matthew Saville's picture

Can we quit villainizing folks as "the anti-drone crowd", and simply call them the "PLEASE OBEY THE LAW AND DON'T BE STUPID" crowd?

Because, as you mention, while laws are great and all, it requires both obedience and common sense plus a general respect for human life.

Just because drone pilots like this should be dragged out and prosecuted doesn't mean there is an "anti-drone crowd" that is out to "spoil the fun"...

Oliver Kmia's picture

Absolutely, I'm not talking about regular folks but the hardliners who want to forbid drones and pass stricter regulation following each incidents. My point is just to say that it doesn't work (otherwise there would be no crime if every illegal things were respected).

Benton Lam's picture

Regulation doesn't work doesn't mean we don't have a law against it.

As long as we let most people get a driver license, and let them buy beer with the same license as ID, there will be DUI.

The regulations are there to have a legal recourse when they do dumb shit.

Same for drones. We have regulations to keep the drones clear from airports, and existing laws can probably be argued to keep drones from getting too close to backyards.

They're there to state that there are behaviours that as a society, we do not want, and breaching them will have consequences.

Matthew Saville's picture

This is indeed an age-old issue. "If we make XYZ illegal, it won't stop /criminals/ from doing it, it'll only stop law-abiding citizens!" (this is particularly strong in the pro-gun arguments, but we shouldn't open that can of worms on a photography forum.)

The bottom line is that laws are indeed there for a reason, and they do indeed help, even if /some/ people still disobey the laws. We have laws against killing other human beings because it's a no-brainer. This is simply a seriously gray area with much more complex pros and cons and "rule-bending" people involved. That doesn't mean that it won't help at all if we do something like expand a certain no-fly zone, or start demanding that Parrot model drones be geo-fenced, and/or that all drones be made more difficult to hack, etc. etc.

Matthew, what are you smoking? Where is the “ani-drone” crowd reference here?

David T's picture

"As usual, this type of story will surely fuel the fire of the anti-drone crowd. "

This has less to do with drones and more to do with criminals who put hundreds of people’s lives in danger.

Yes, there is a "PLEASE OBEY THE LAW AND DON'T BE STUPID" crowd, but there's also the real "anti-drone" crowd. The ones where even if you've strictly followed every rule there is when it comes to flying drones, you will still be blamed for a lot of things.

Matthew Saville's picture

I think those people are a lot fewer and farther between than you think. Most "anti-drone" people (as labeled by the general opinion of the internet, not self-proclaimed) ...are simply hoping for enough regulation to ensure safety. They're not trying to be anti-fun or anti-liberty, they're just trying to help prevent a catastrophe, or simple invasions of privacy.

Oliver Kmia's picture

It already exists on DJI drones but the no-fly zones are either too restrictive (prevent to fly a drone in a large area around a tiny traffic-less airport) or ineffective like in this case. The no fly-zone should not be circular but extend along the runway axis.
Moreover, the no-fly zone can be disabled relatively easily with software hack. Finally, anybody can make a DIY drone with parts purchased on ebay like this one who reached 33,000 feet... This is a complex problem.
https://fstoppers.com/aerial/small-hobby-drone-reaches-33000-feet-233493

Jeff McCollough's picture

That works for consumer drones like DJI drones but for custom built drones that won't happen.

Not arguing that this was a good idea, but I think it is reasonable to point out that a drone weighing around 350g and comprised mostly of plastic isn't going to do much damage to an A380.
Those engines are designed to ingest birds weighing 10 times that without losing thrust, and even if the plane did lose one engine, it could still land safely.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Yes but the Lithium battery is a big deal as it can catch fire upon physical stress (impact). If one of those got stuck in the wing or the tail, it could start a bad fire. The horizontal stabilizer of the A380 contains almost as much fuel as a B737. The wings can takes 120 tons each.. However, I'm not sure that a lightweight Anafi drone would go through the reinforced leading edge of the wing. But with 500 souls onboard, I wouldn't like to try...

Graham Taylor's picture

They're not "designed to ingest birds". Bird strikes still cause engine failures and write the engines off. That's why commercial airliners are multi-engined.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Engines are designed to resist to a certain extent to birds ingestion based on weight and quantity. The regulation specifies the precise conditions and requirements. In short: engines must resist and sustain a certain level of thrust when ingesting small to medium birds. For largest ingestion (big birds and multiple occurrences), the engine can fail but must contain the failure (ie. no explosion with debris leaving the engine).
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/33.76

Graham Taylor's picture

Exactly, they're not designed to allow birds into the turbine stages and when it occurs, the engine tends to fail catastrophically. A fairly large proportion of my air force career involved documenting the aftermath of bird strikes all over the airframe, but in particular those that went through the canopy and those that went down the intakes. There are people employed as "bird scarers" to keep them away from runways to reduce the risk of them happening on take-off (when the aircraft is most dependant on thrust).

David Pavlich's picture

This "ingest a bird and survive" is a straw dog at least. If the engine doesn't flame out, there is this to consider; if the strike is detected, the Captain will turn the plane around and land. Once safely on the ground, the passengers are deplaned and have to find alternatives.

Further, do you have any idea what it costs the plane's owners to tear down that engine for a full inspection? A strike like this demands that the engine be torn down. The same rule applies for the general aviation person that owns an old Cesna 150. If this guy has a bird strike on the prop, he has to tear down the engine to ensure that the engine isn't damaged. The cost of this tear down will probably match the total worth of an old 150.

Michael Jin's picture

Time to arm airports with military grade radar and surface-to-air missiles...

Seriously, though, for every seemingly stupid rule that you've ever had to deal with in life, you can blame it on a jackass like this.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Military grade radar wouldn't detect anything and I'm not sure that firing SAM around other airliners would be very safe. There are a lot of legal issues (who would take the responsibility of launching the missile?, how do you handle the debris falling from the sky including the remains of the missile with its fuel, etc.). It's not just detection but the ability to identify and confirm the nature of the threat. These things happen very fast. Nothing would be worst than a "green on green" incident.
There is a big market and a lot of companies are working on it. If you are interested, I explained the issue in this article:
https://fstoppers.com/aerial/technical-and-legal-challenges-anti-drone-s...

Michael Jin's picture

Yeah... I frequently run into the problem where sarcasm doesn't quite translate well via text. >.<

Rashad Hurani's picture

We will wake up some morning on a news that "a passenger jet crash caused by a drone killed hundreds.." and we will not say that "we saw this coming..."

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

So a Airbus A380 pilot prepare with a friend a drone shooting session. A tiny drone with a 12 x time zoom function which was about half a km away from the aircraft with a prepare path?
I'm not so worry here.

BUT, much more concern that few dumb drone enthusiasm without any kind of knowledge trying to get similar picture.

Maarten Stappaerts's picture

In the event of a fly-away of the drone half a km is a very small distance.
I have to admit chances that it will actually hit the plane are slim, but it still poses a risk that cannot be taken. Security has ALWAYS the highest priority in aviation. There is a reason for these strict rules.

A lesser comparison would be to compare it to road traffic rules applied to pedestrians, they are not allowed on highways neither.

Reginald Walton's picture

This is the type of clown that will get drones banned for the rest of us.

Paulo Macedo's picture

The footage is all bumpy and looks like it was zoomed the way my dad used to with his 1999 handycam. Anyhow and onto what matters here.
The possible way to restrict these drones is to not only limit the airports with a circle around them, but to have all the aproach flying vectors covered around runways on big airports, done on an X,Z,Y (3 dimensional) way, to prevent drones to reach a certain altitude and distance from these vectors, specially during landing and takeoff operations.

Example, our airport here in Lisbon, if you were near the bridge which is under one of the landing and takeoff vectors, you could operate the drone to make your footage, but, could not reach the flight level of the aircrafts passing above. But if you moved away from that corridor, you could reach higher, like a safe space within the circle radius.

This could even cover Bravo Airspace near airports, with that circle, preventing comercial drones from flying above a limited Flight Level.

But these are some ideas, and I bet someone has come with this before me.

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