Quite apart from terrorists using small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's, or drones) to carry explosives or other weaponized cargo, I've been warning for years that they may be used to try to deliberately collide with airliners while landing or taking off. The sheer volume of such incidents (most, thanks be to God, near-misses or close encounters so far) convinces me, from a statistical perspective alone, that all of them can't possibly be accidental or unplanned. Some of my past articles include:
- Small drone aircraft as a terrorist weapon?
- More than ever, I'm worried about small drone aircraft
- Are all these drone near-misses accidental?
- Am I a prophet, or what?
- Terrorists and UAV's: reader feedback and further issues
Well, guess what happened on Thursday? (Click the screen capture for a larger view.)
US and international news media are also reporting that the collision was probably with a drone. There is no blood or other physical debris to indicate that a bird was involved, so that's a likely deduction. I'm sure investigators are searching for any detached parts of the UAV's fuselage, propellers, etc. to confirm the 'diagnosis'. The damage is also similar (albeit worse than) that caused to another Boeing 737 during a drone collision while approaching the airport at Tete, Mozambique, in January 2017. Compare the photographs of the two aircraft and you'll see the similarities for yourself.
Interestingly, ABC10 News in San Diego reports:
The flight was from Guadalajara, but flight tracking website FlightAware showed the plane did not take its usual course. According to the tracker, the Aeromexico flight instead flew into the U.S., over a flight-restricted zone along the U.S.-Mexico border.
That's an area where drones are in constant use by Mexican drug cartels to ferry drugs and supplies over the US border, as we recently discussed in these pages. One of them might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I continue to believe that deliberate attempts to crash a drone into a jet airliner have occurred, are occurring, and will continue to occur. If the Aeromexico incident is included, there have already been at least four recorded incidents of drone mid-air collisions of which I'm aware, including one in Canada and one in New York. I can easily imagine terrorists planning to fly multiple drones into the landing pattern of a major airport, to "swarm" an airliner as it was too low and slow to maneuver easily. That's not a happy thought - and the damage shown above illustrates the danger. What if that drone had hit an engine, or multiple engines, rather than the nose cone? What if it had struck the cockpit windows instead of the radome?
Food for thought.