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The ghost drone that shut down Barajas Airport in Madrid

Ten days ago, we reported on the drone sighting that led to a temporary closure of Madrid’s Barajas Airport. The Spanish Civil Guard, however, has yet to find any proof of the ghost drone that was spotted by pilots and a falconer, according to Spanish newspaper El Independiente.

The first drone sighting was reported at 12:17 p.m. on Monday, February 3. Three minutes later, the crew of another airplane reported the same sighting, and as per safety protocol, airport operations were immediately halted, resulting in 26 diverted flights and thousands of affected passengers. According to the newspaper, the airport’s wildlife control service said:

The object was seen north of track 36R, the closest to Paracuellos de Jarama and used only for takeoffs.

In Spain, the regulations that govern the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) prohibits the flight of such aircraft within 8 km (5 miles) from an airport.

It’s unclear at this point what make and model drone was apparently spotted. The newspaper says that a drone from market leader DJI would have been unlikely to be near the airport, since DJI’s Geo-fencing 2.0 would have prevented the unmanned aircraft from doing so.

The ghost drone that shut down Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain

DJI’s Geo-fencing 2.0 prevents DJI drones from flying in the red areas. Flying a DJI drone in the blue areas is possible upon receiving approval on a request to unlock the unmanned aircraft

The possibility of the ghost drone being an FPV drone also seems unlikely, since those tend to be much smaller, and at a distance of more than a quarter-mile, such a fast-flying drone would have been very hard to spot.

‘It could be a drone. That is not ruled out yet, but it is not confirmed. It is said that they saw it in the immediate vicinity of the runway, but that is almost impossible because, if it were from DJI, it would not start its engines so close to the airport or the authorities could contact the manufacturer to inform them of which pilot or aircraft an exception was asked for on that day,’ says César Gónzález, technical director and pilot of Godrone.

Fifty minutes after the first reported sighting of the ghost drone, Barajas Airport resumed normal operations.

‘All the actions and coordination described in the procedures were satisfactorily completed and the safety was safeguarded at all times,’ summarizes Antonio Coronado, head of the Air Traffic Management Project Analysis Division at Enaire.

As was the case in the London Gatwick Airport story, it remains to be seen if there was in fact a drone and not some other object, such as a bird, balloon, or a plastic bag that was ultimately responsible for the closure of Madrid’s airport.

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Photo: El Independiente



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