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Unauthorized Drone Paralyzes Congonhas Airport, Mobilizing Police Forces

11/14/2017 - 10h58

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FABRÍCIO LOBEL
FROM SÃO PAULO
RODRIGO BORGES DELFIM
IN COLLABORATION WITH FOLHA

The presence of an unauthorized drone led to the shutdown of Congonhas airport in São Paulo on the night of Sunday, the 12th. The incident began at around 8:15pm, leading to the cancellation and redirection of flights both in and out of São Paulo.

Activity resumed at 10:30pm, and the airport took in flights until 1am on the morning of Monday, the 11th - on regular days, flight activity comes to an end at 11pm.

Not only did the incident mobilize the Federal Police - which arrived on site without knowing who was in charge of the drone that was flying over the Jabaquara region - it also raised concerns within the Brazilian aviation community: concerns that have already taken on an international dimension in light of the risks of interference that domestic and professional drones pose to air traffic.

Up until the month of November, 24 thousand drones were registered with Brazilian authorities, though the actual number may be even greater.

The drone that shut down Congonhas airport was spotted by pilots who were reaching the final stretch of their itineraries. The information was then passed along to the air traffic controllers in charge of the flights, who, in turn, passed the information along to the aviation safety authorities, as well as the airport itself.

According to rules that were established in May of this year by the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac), drones may be prohibited from operating anywhere within a 9-mile radius of any airport or flight route, depending on how high they can go.

According to Infraero (the country's airport regulation agency), 34 flights were redirected to other airports throughout the country.

According to Marcelo Honorato, a judge who specializes in aeronautical crimes, the person who was in charge of the unauthorized drone that flew over the region could be sent to prison for upto five years for jeopardizing civil aviation safety.

The incident could fall under Article 261 of the Penal Code, which considers the act of obstructing an aircraft, or subjecting it to danger, a crime. The episode could also lead to a civil lawsuit if airline companies decide they are entitled to reimbursements due to the costs that ensued from the drone's activities.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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