Drones disrupt over 240 flights in Chongqing

HONG KONG • About 10,000 travellers were stranded last week after more than 240 flights at a Chongqing airport were disrupted by drones.

The disruptions last Friday evening at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport are the latest in a string of similar cases that have hit south-west China.

South China Morning Post reported that there had been at least 10 such cases in the past three months.

Flights to and from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport were affected from 7.20pm. Order was restored around 9.35pm, but 34 minutes later the drones appeared again, reported Xinhua news agency.

Order was restored again only at around 11.30pm, according to the airport, reported the Post.

The drone disruptions forced more than 40 flights to make landings in neighbouring cities.

Over 60 flights were cancelled and another 140 were delayed, the airport's microblog said.

This was the second time that unauthorised drones caused disruptions at the airport last week. Last Tuesday, 12 planes were forced to land elsewhere.

Chongqing's local public security authority recently announced measures to intensify a crackdown against the illegal use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Those who violate the drone rules face fines of up to 100,000 yuan (S$20,400).

Late last month, four drones were illegally flown over Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in south-west China's Sichuan province, which forced 58 flights to land at alternative airports, four flights to return to their departure airport, and more than 10 to be cancelled.

Yunnan's Kunming Changshui International Airport has been affected by six drone incidents since February, Xinhua reported.

The number of cases of drones affecting airport services across China have increased from just four in 2015 to 23 last year, civil aviation administration statistics show.

In January, a man in eastern China was put in police custody for allegedly endangering public safety by using a drone to shoot video close to airliners taking off and landing at an airport.

A short video clip circulated online showing a passenger plane landing, with subtitles saying the footage was shot with a drone.

The clip alerted pilots and aviation media and they suspected that the video was shot at close range because of the size and clarity of the pictures of the aircraft, reported the Post.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline Drones disrupt over 240 flights in Chongqing. Subscribe