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East Midlands Airport drone sighting likely a bird, experts say

According to experts, the reported drone sighting that shut down East Midlands Airport for about an hour might have been a bird. The police are still investigating reports of a drone sighting at the airport on Wednesday morning. Police said that ‘the movement’ of the unknown object suggested it might have been a drone, however one expert said it was “extremely unlikely” that a drone would have been able to fly so close to the airport.

East Midlands Airport’s drone sighting still unconfirmed

Most off-the-shelf drones come with geo-fencing which would prevent them from flying near airports, the BBC reports. This is indeed true for DJI drones which represent 70-80% of all drones sold commercially.

“The drone simply won’t take off if it is in a restricted location,” said Simon Dale, from Airprox Reality Check. “It is therefore extremely unlikely that a drone was operating in proximity to East Midlands Airport.”

According to Mr. Dale, the sighting could have been a bird, a party balloon, a Chinese lantern or a manned aircraft in the distance.

Former RAF pilot, Sion Roberts, who trains people to fly drones reportedly said that geo-fencing was ‘easily hackable’ and that it ‘doesn’t take a rocket scientist’ to do so. He agreed, however, that the drone sighting might have been a bird. “It could have been anything,” he said.

“There are even stories of plastic bags floating around in the air and they’ve been called drones. I tried to look into it to see who made the report because if it was a pilot coming in to land when he’s busy and sees something going past the cockpit, it could have been a bird or something like that. The airport was only shut for an hour so they obviously discounted it quite quickly.”

Very few details have been made available about the East Midlands Airport drone sighting. In a statement on Wednesday, the airport said: “A drone sighting at East Midland Airport this morning is currently subject to an ongoing Leicestershire Police investigation.”

“The airport closed briefly between the hours of 8am and 9am. Impact on flights has been minimal.”

Citing “operation reasons,” the Leicestershire Police could not say where the alleged drone was seen or even who saw it. They did say that there were three separate sightings and that “the movement of it suggested it was a drone.” The police confirmed that there were no photos or video footage available of the alleged drone.

Mr. Dale founded Airprox Reality Check to scrutinize reports of drone incidents or drone sightings. He pointed out that many other reported “drone sightings” have turned out to be incorrect. For instance, the suspected drone that hit a British Airways plane could have been a plastic bag.

Mr. Dale said:

“We are yet to see a confirmed drone sighting. We saw a drone described as ‘red, spherical and about football sized’ in a report before. Clearly that was a party balloon. With constant, incorrect, media reports of drone sightings pilots are expecting to see drones, and confirmation bias comes into play.”

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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo