OR Tambo International acts swiftly as suspected drone flies too close to runway, affecting flights

A drone, flying too close to the runway at OR Tambo International has caused delays at South Africa's busiest airport in Johannesburg.

Air Traffic Navigation Services Percy Morokane confirmed to Traveller24 that outbound flights were slowed down on Sunday morning after the illegal airspace activity was detected.

"Unidentified traffic, believed to be a drone, approximately 4 miles (or about 6.5km) NW of OR Tambo Airport was sighted and reported to us, just after 11am this morning," says Morokane.

Joint ATNS/ACSA precautionary safety measures were initiated - as part of the ICAO global Airport Safety Contingency Plan.

"Outbound flights were slowed down, not completely suspended. Arrivals were not affected at all," he says. 

News24 journalist Kyle Cowan was at the airport at the time and confirmed his flight bound for Cape Town experienced a 20min delay.

Morokane says the incident has since been reported to the SACAA for a formal investigation. 

READ: Drones spotted near King Shaka Airport, operators urged to 'educate themselves' on regulations  

It is illegal to fly a drone near a national key point such as an airport, according to the rules and regulations put in place by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

Flying a drone within 10km of an aerodrome is also in contravention of the rules. If apprehended this person would need to produce a CAA approved and valid remote pilot licence as well as a letter of approval to operate the drone. They could face a R50k fine or a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years

This is not the first time drones have been a hazard within South African airspace. In December of last year King Shaka International put out a warning following frequent drone sightings near its borders.

Similarly there have been shutdowns at London's Gatwick Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in the United States.  

READ: What really happens when drones get near airports?

Airports are continuously looking to enhance protocols for the rapid detection and interdiction of drones - these include drone-defence equipment at UK airports specifically.  

The following map exists as a guide to SA's no-drone zones - although it must not be seen as conclusive. It remains the responsibility of the drone pilot to ensure that their flights are legal and safe. For more information, please visit the SACAA's website, or contact them directly. Map sourced via Action Gear.  

READ: Don't zone out with your drone out: SA's no-drone zones 

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