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.

davidlovephotog'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.

Lou Bragg's picture

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. "

Lou Bragg's picture

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

Elliot Sander's picture

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.

Stuart White's picture

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.

michaeljin'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...

michaeljin'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.

Richard Twigg's picture

This why we can't have nice things.

LA M's picture

The drone thing is over.

Unless you are a commercial operator with insurance etc.

Just try getting a drone into all but the most lax countries on the planet now.

Robert Newman's picture

As an experienced USAF and civilian pilot, it is clear that the drone is offset from the runway centerline by roughly 1000 feet /350 meters. The drone operator monitors the Airbus a380 through takeoff and initial departure and stays well clear of the flight path. Based on the map provided by another reader, the drone would appear to be legal. There is danger to the drone due to wake turbulence, but short of ingesting the drone in an engine, it would likely not cause a crash of the aircraft. Having said this, as a pilot of the a380 I would not like the idea of the drone near my departure path. Depending on the size of the drone, it could cause considerable damage to the aircraft were it to impact and might penetrate the windscreen although this is unlikely.

Anonymous's picture

Dear experienced USAF and civilian armchair pilot, what you describe is the case of an 4 engine aircraft. What in case of 2 engines? The aircraft will need to fly maybe 2 hours only with 1 engine to burn the fuel / a bit shorter if can dump and landing at risk with high speed. Same procedure with 4 engines a/c. Do you still think that flying next to a runway it's OK?

Robert Newman's picture

I start with the premise that very few quadrocopter type drones have the potential to take out an engine on a commercial jet. While they could strike the aircraft, the impact would be much like a bird. Sure, if the engine was shut down the aircraft would have to dump fuel to land but flight on a single engine for a commercial jet is perfectly safe as long as the pilots know what they are about. As I said in my original comments, the drone is offset from the runway centerline by an estimated 300-350 meters and the drone operator is fully aware of the location of the Airbus a380. The a380 pilot would prefer not to have to worry about drones, but there is almost no real danger here. A light plane crossing the flight path is a much more realistic hazard.

Anonymous's picture

This is definitely the point of view of a drome user / admirer.

What will be the point of view of 100+ passengers in an airplain where the Captain announces that one engine was shut down and the airplane is going to land ???

I suppose that this very original statement is meant as a joke:

"flight on a single engine for a commercial jet is perfectly safe as long as the pilots know what they are about."

Anonymous's picture

The chance that a drone will be sucked by an airplane engine is incredibly high, so the published pictures could be very different. Many coffins.

Robert Newman's picture

You are an alarmist. Given the offset from the flight path and the constant monitoring by the drone pilot of the a380, it is clear that the drone could not be ingested by an engine in this instance. Bird strikes happen all the time and sometimes birds get ingested by the engines. In most cases, the engine keeps on operating as normal. Occasionally in older engines, a bird strike can break off one of the compressor section vanes and then there is likely damage to the engine and it will be shut down. Quadrocopter motors and the battery would likely do damage to the compressor section if they were ingested, While bad for the engine, it would not necessarily require shutdown.

Anonymous's picture

Make drones flying around runways great! BTW: what's the colour of your hair?

Bernie connor's picture

The only "dumb and dumber" are the people here who actually believe this. Put your paranoia to one side for a moment and realise that this clip is from a flight simulator(game). Look at the disappearing cars on the ground,the unmoving sea(until the end),and calculate the speed the plane is moving at the point it passes the so called drone. No drone on this planet could pan that smooth at that speed. Get over yourselves and stop being so paranoid

Oliver Kmia's picture

I'm trying to process all this.

Ty Poland's picture

this is amazing

Robert Newman's picture

It is not a simulation in my view.

Joe Smith's picture

Im calling it a fake. Those 22 Wheels seem to come up fast, so fast I could not see any of the landing gear retracting. The lighting does not match up with that time of the aircraft departing which is scheduled around 16:45 local time. mid July sun will set around 1 hour later and the direction of the sunlight will nearly be the same as the runway, that is from behind where the aircraft took off. The video shows a nice bit of sun glare reflection around 1:56 Nice editing yet its a fully overcast day with cloud every where. The aircraft registration is also not in sight. The real test if its fake news .... has CNN picked this up yet ?

Oliver Kmia's picture

Plus, we can't see the curvature of the earth. Hopefully, CNN will pick this up.

Robert Newman's picture

As an experienced pilot, this looks like the real thing to me. It is a broken cloud deck with sun rays peaking through and the scene looks quite authentic. The scenery matches up with what I remember about landing at Mauritius several years ago. The operations of the a380 are exactly what I would expect. The sea detail at 1,000 meters is just like that depicted. The scale of the plane changes your perceptions about things like the gear cycling. In short, this is the real deal, not a simulation.

Ty Poland's picture

I do have to say the only way this should be legal is if the drone op had permission to fly from the airport and the airline. The pilot would also have to know the drone is there and the insurance for all this to take place would be wild. Cool to see how Air France went about filming their plane in another article that was shared Oliver Kmia

If you wanna really do things right, buy a bigger drone and slap a telephoto lens on it to get those shots outside of the airspace instead of being an idiot and trying to fly right next to the plane

Felix Wu's picture

Harsh punishment must be imposed and enforced. Face jail or perhaps death penalty and have the media to widely educate such consequences. Sounds harsh but one of the effective ways to solve the problem. We just need to make sure the whole planet knows droning at airport is a strict no no..

Aleksey Fedorchenko's picture

Why everyone on the internet is referring to Anafi? This footage was likely shoot with DJI Mavic Pro which has up to 2x digital zoom in 1080p / 2.7k modes, see example https://youtu.be/-T6tt6aJhn4

and I'd rather believe it was Mavic Pro due to zoom steps there on video... Zoom of Anafi is smooth allowing vertigo effect https://youtu.be/EznGeTf2Cfs