Skip to comments.Was the Drone/UAV Hovering in the JFK Landing Approach Kill Zone (LAKZ) a Failed Terrorist Attack?
Posted on 05/02/2013 8:54:46 AM PDT by Seizethecarp
Just as terrorists can use GPS guided drone/UAVs to target jet turbines in the Runway Kill Zone (RKZ) as explained in earlier posts to this blog (here), the quad-copter drone that was hovering in the JFK landing approach of an Alitalia jetliner on March 5, 2013 may have been the first terrorist attack in a Landing Approach Kill Zone (LAKZ). News coverage of the story can be seen here.
Using Jeppesen maps, a terrorist can determine the altitude that jetliners are supposed to fly at for each descending leg of a landing approach to a specific runway. At JFK on March 5, 2013, the Alitalia jet was approaching runway 31R. Going on the internet a recent Jeppesen map for that runway shows a leg approximately a mile in length right before Long Beach, NY (where the multi-copter drone was hovering) during which the airliner is supposed to hold steady at 1,900 feet.
Using newly available First-Person View (FPV) video piloting (here) the multi-copters remote pilot could hover the drone at 1,900 feet at the GPS coordinates of the Jeppesen landing approach to JFK runway 31R and visually guide the drone to target one of the jet turbine intakes on the Alitalia airliner.
That doesn't sound very easy.
As a former dispatcher, I hav always felt that approach plates should be controlled..
hussein encourages more experimentation
Well that’s two. How many more nutty conspiracy theories do you have post as threads?
Guess I'll need a note from my doctor to fly an instrument approach.
Not so nutty. Jet approaches final are quite flat, precise and predictable. You have the opportunity to try one after another aircraft, perhaps one every minute depending on separation.
Now the air would be quite turbulent and disturbed so putting a lightweight drone in the right spot at the right time would be challenging.
“That doesn’t sound very easy.”
Imagine yourself in two-dimensions in a small boat trying to intentionally collide with a large ship.
If you have a navigational chart of the ship channel and know the shipping schedule you could position yourself in the middle of the channel using newly available GPS guidance.
You would have the best chance of achieving a collision if you selected a passage in the channel where the large ship would be following a constant bearing as it approaches your intended collision point.
You could sit there at the most likely collision point facing your craft towards the oncoming ship and you would only have to make very small adjustments to the port or starboard (left or right) to insure a collision, assuming you were not detected on the bridge of the approaching craft.
As a boy my Navy dad taught me “beware the constant bearing” meaning that if your craft is following a constant heading at constant speed and another craft is heading across your bow at a constant heading and constant speed, but the “bearing” (compass position) of the other craft is remaining constant (constant degrees to the left or right of your bow) then you are heading for a collision.
Sitting in your small craft facing an oncoming ship it would be easy to determine whether you should maneuver to the left or right to guarantee a collision, assuming the large ship doesn’t change course. All you have to do is observe whether it is coming straight at you and adjust accordingly.
Now imagine a remotely piloted multi-copter drone remote pilot attempting to achieve a collsion with an airliner where the airliner, like the Alitalia jet approaching JFK, is flying a constant bearing(315 degrees, per Jeppesen) and constant altitude (1,900 feet per Jeppesen) for a mile as it approaches a known optimal collision point (labeled ZULAB on the Jeppesen map and GPS identifiable in three dimensions) right before the airliner begins final descent.
Point ZULAB on the Jeppesen map is a known constant three-dimensional location through which all jetliners must pass on approach to runway 31R at JFK right over Long Beach, NY where the rogue drone multi-copter was spotted “hovering” only 200 feet away from the Alitalia Jet.
A remote terrorist drone pilot positioning the attach drone multi-copter at point ZULAB and facing the drone at bearing 135 degrees (opposite of landing bearing 315 degrees) the terrorist now has a two dimensional target to collide with. The terrorist would only have to position the drone up or down, or left or right to maintain the “constant heading” of the incoming jetliner relative to the drone.
In particular the terrorist would want to target one of the jet turbines of the airliner.
Our opinions differ.
They only have to let the drone (or drones) sit there. It may be a 1 in a 1000 chance, but that would be about a typical day at a busy airport. The odds of bringing down the aircraft are almost zero because they can land just fine on the other engine. But the fear factor would be great. And the overreaction would be even greater.
Give me a break. The information printed on them, for example the 29 approach at EWR denotes a petroleum tank facility just outside the marker. My point was maybe a way of making them accessible to licensed pilots and trainees, something that might keep it away from those who would use it against us..
Just getting close enought for a shrappnel effect could damage the aircraft on final...don’t have to colliade with it...
Think Boston. "Shelter (cringe) in Place" for the whole airport.
Don’t laugh off these tiny drones. Could be just as deadly as bird strikes.
These are coming at you at 400+ miles an hour, you have 1.5 seconds to aim, your hovering drone moves 10 foot per second.
Good luck. Easier to find a needle in a haystack. My guess is there will be about 1000 strikes into the wings and fusalage before you get lucky enough to take out a turbine. Then they will land on the other engine.
So, now you need two drones... You got 1.5 seconds to...
Thought provoking links. Very instructive. Thanks for posting!
“Dont laugh off these tiny drones. Could be just as deadly as bird strikes.”
Correct. A 747 was brought down by TINY Kestrels!
“US freighter operator Kalitta Air has adapted its training procedures to warn crews of the risk of post-V1 rejected take-off, following an inquiry into the overrun which destroyed a Boeing 747-200F in Brussels.
“The aircraft experienced a stall in its inboard right-hand Pratt & Whitney JT9D engine after it ingested a kestrel during the take-off roll on 25 May last year. It failed to stop within the length of runway 20, travelling 300m (980ft) beyond and breaking up into several sections, although none of the five occupants was injured.”
Belgian investigators believe several elements contributed to the crew’s decision to abort the take-off despite the aircraft’s travelling 12kt above V1. After hearing a bang the captain called ‘reject’, seven seconds after the first officer had made the V1 call-out.”
The Runway Killzone Blog does not claim that the Bagram crash WAS a terrorist attack, but only points out that is COULD have been a terrorist attack made using drones positioned to “mine” the runway in the Runway Kill Zone (RKZ).
Ducks and Geese get sucked into jet engine intakes all the time when they get into the flight path of a jet airliner ... so there is no reason that a small drone positioned into the path of such an aircraft would not also be sucked into the engines ... or hit a control surface on a wing or hit the windshield ... regardless it is quite feasible. And viewing the Jeppesen Flight Database to get altitude and vector information is quite possible - not heavily restricted as one might think.
Hitting the moving target at hundreds of miles per hour of the jet engine intake a couple feet across in the 3 dimensions space needs a lot more zero's behind than 1000.
Kind of like shooting a musket ball out of the air with a slingshot.
“The odds of bringing down the aircraft are almost zero because they can land just fine on the other engine. But the fear factor would be great.”
True. But two terrorists operating two drones could knock out both engines. This JKF drone event on March 5, 2013 could have been a proof of concept.
The cost of drones is now so low and drone swarming software is now available so that a swarm of drones could be maneuvered into the GPS coordinates for ZULAB in the Jeppesen. This would reverse-engineer a bird-strike crash such as Captain Sully experienced.
Here is a video of coordinated drone swarming recently achieved which terrorists could soon be bringing to the Runway Kill Zone (RKZ) or the Landing Approach Kill Zone (LAKZ) near you!:
Video: Swarm of Tiny Quadcopters Do a Delicate Dance
Towards a Swarm of Nano Quadrotors
Alex Kushleyev, Daniel Mellinger, Vijay Kumar, GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania
“Perhaps its somewhat hyperbolic, but seeing the ease and grace with which these things move in and out of formation, negotiating obstacles and ducking seamlessly between each other as they execute a figure eight really tickles the fanciful, sci-fi-friendly part of the brain. GRASP Lab creations have already shown us how quadcopters can work together to manipulate objects and even build structures together. The idea of looping more than a dozen of these things together—as we see in the video below—and putting them to work on complex projects makes this kind of precision performance feel very much like the future.”
Think of PacMan at 10,000x normal speed. Doesn’r sound easy; you’re right.
“As a former dispatcher, I hav always felt that approach plates should be controlled..”
These Jeppesen runway approach maps seem to be widely disseminated to all pilots these days in digital files that terrorists could likely have no problem obtaining.
That being the case it would seem to be most practical to defend runway and approach “kill zones” and alert officials and the public to observe and report drone activities near airports as well as develop drone counter-measures for military bases and VIPs like the POTUS.
“Thought provoking links. Very instructive. Thanks for posting!”
Thanks, Old Sarge!
The author of the blog, “2branta” (gee, I wonder who that could be?) took that name to memorialize crash of AWACS Yukla 27 which was brought down by as few as two Canada Geese, aka Branta Canadensis, thus 2branta.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
“This species is 76110 centimetres (3043 in) long with a 127180 centimetres (5071 in) wingspan. The male usually weighs 3.26.5 kilograms (7.114 lb), and can be very aggressive in defending territory. The female looks virtually identical but is slightly lighter at 2.55.5 kilograms (5.512 lb), generally 10% smaller than its male counterpart, and has a different honk.”
Captain Sully hit several of these and suffered a total loss of thrust. A cartoonist pictured terrorists directing trained Canada Geese to bring Sully down, so the concept of reverse-engineering bird-strike aircraft destruction is out there for any alert terrorists to pursue.
Terrorists are already known to be experimenting with drones and thinking about how to kill large numbers of Americans with them:
WASHINGTON — As the technology for arming drones spreads around the world, terrorists could use the unmanned, missile-firing aircraft to attack and kill the president and other U.S. leaders, the former chief of U.S. intelligence said Tuesday.
Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as President Obama’s first director of national intelligence, told reporters he was concerned that the proliferation of armed drones — a potential outgrowth of the U.S. reliance on drones to attack and kill terrorists — could well backfire.
“I do fear that if al Qaeda can develop a drone, its first thought will be to use it to kill our president, and senior officials and senior officers,” Blair said during a conference call with reporters. “It is possible without a great deal of intelligence to do something with a drone you cannot do with a high-powered rifle or driving a car full of explosives and other ways terrorists now use to try killing senior officials,” he said.
The U.S. development and growing use of armed drones has not “opened a huge Pandora’s box which will make us wish we had never invented the drone,” Blair said. But he said if drones are acquired by terrorist groups, it would force the U.S. to take defensive measures. Yet, the U.S. already has extensive surveillance of its airspace and sophisticated weapons designed against a variety of airborne threats.
Brighter minds than mine, etc....
Posit two scenarios. The bad guys are using aviation frequencies and their locations can be determined.
They use hobby frequencies and whatever may be affected would be momentary and inconsequential to legitimate users. Radio control models will just be unable to operate within x miles of airports, and surveillance cameras can be set up near all the likely places the bad guy would pick to do the deed.
“These are coming at you at 400+ miles an hour, you have 1.5 seconds to aim, your hovering drone moves 10 foot per second.”
Approaching runway 31R a mile out from Jeppesen point ZULAB at 1,900 feet for which I have GPS guided coordinates and onboard autopilot navigation on my drone, the C-17 will be maintaining a contant 315 degree ILS bearing at a constant 1,900 foot altitude heading straight at my drone that will be pre-positioned directly in front of it give or take a few meters.
Multi-drone autonomous navigation is so sophisticated now that the drone can autocorrect for wind-drift! Note that a huge jet turbine, some in excess of 3 meters in diameter, is not only a relatively large target, but a huge suckion machine!
Here is a video of a GPS controlled copter proceeding to a three-dimensional waypoint and holding despite wind. The latest remotely piloted systems allow for waypoint guidance with remote pilot override:
“Piccolo Autopilot - UAV Helicopter VTOL Demonstration”
“Why aren’t all the possible frequencies these minidrones can operate on determined, and 2-second bursts of ‘control’ commands transmitted at intervals to freak out the drones?”
Drone countermeasures, especially against hobby-type RC drone aircraft are probably employed near aircraft used by VIPS and the military. There is no sign that these types of protection are in use at civilian airports, which are a big soft target for terrorists.
You have a facination with technology that does not translate well in the real world. Note in the picture I gave you, ALL the planes are on the flight plane. Note that the flight plane is not 6 inches wide but about a half a mile wide or more.
Watch planes coming into or out of an airport, do they line up like little ducks?
Thats ok, enjoy the technological fantasy, it is how you invent things that do work. A stage or two beyond where you are at is called invention or genius.
The latest drones use GPS-guided autonomous navigation which uses NO radio control. All GPS units in cars would be disabled near airports if GPS were jammed.
Here is a basic description of new inexpensive navigation available to you and to terrorists now which could be used to "mine" the runway kill zone or landing approach kill zone:
"Just add the ArduPilot Mega autopilot to any RC aircraft and it becomes a fully-programmable flying robot with a powerful ground station and Mission Planner. Features include: ■Return to Launch with a flick of your RC toggle switch or a mouse click in the graphical Ground Station ■Unlimited 3D GPS waypoints ■Built-in camera control ■Fully-scriptable missions ■One-click software load, and easy point-and-click configuration in the powerful Mission Planner. NO programming required! ■Replay recorded missions and analyze all the data with a graphing interface ■Supports two-way telemetry with Xbee wireless modules. ■Point-and-click waypoint entry or real-time mission commands while the UAV is in the air ■Fly with a joystick or gamepad via your PC--no need for RC control! ■Built-in failsafe will bring your aircraft home in the case of radio loss"
Constant Bearing Decreasing Range
“Watch planes coming into or out of an airport, do they line up like little ducks?”
When they are in a landing approach following ILS, yes they do...usually with one mile separation, IIRC!
Taking off, not at all, but each airframe passes through a very predictable runway kill zone on take-off.
It appears that Harry Potter fans have become interested in remote control aircraft and doomsday tales. So far, birds are more likely to be dangerous FOD than slow, short range, inaccurate toys easily affected by winds, etc.
And we're currently only talking about inert hobby drones.
Consider a drone carrying few pounds of nitroglycerin or acetone peroxide hitting a wing fuel tank or the cockpit.
Constant Bearing Decreasing Range”
There you go. This is what my Navy dad was trying to explain...as opposed to “increasing range” which would avoid collision, of course.
In our scenario with a jet aircraft approaching Jeppesen point ZULAB at 160 knots with the remotely piloted drone held nearly stationary on autopilot, “decreasing range” is a given!
Most aircraft hit in engines by such FOD would land anyway.
Pursuant to international treaties, navigation data such as approach procedures are generally available for all. Just FYI, approach procedures are published as textual procedures first and the graphical part produced later. They're available from numerous vendors in all sorts of forms. Same with a variety of aeronautical navigation charts.
After 9/11/01 they removed the directional sign from Rte 3 in Nashua, NH that showed the exit for ZBW, the Boston ARTCC. Good example of security theater that has no practical effect.
Like trying to keep teenage boys from searching the net for porn. Not practical.
No longer being a teenage boy, here's what 30 seconds of searching for nav/porn found for Moscow.
Yeah, I was able to find the river approach to KSTL with time and DME markers as well. I stand corrected.
Incidentally, Domodedovo, one of four Moscow area airports, was targeted by Chechen terrorists. It was two women who had, uh, secreted their explosives..
“Most aircraft hit in engines by such FOD would land anyway.”
Yes, but loss of an engine could prevent the aircraft from “going around” or responding to numerous situations optimally requiring two engines. Terrorists deploying multiple drones or even coordinated swarm could cause pandemonium, which is, of course, what they seek.
Or even one of those large fireworks likes the Boston Bomber Jihadies used.
“It appears that Harry Potter fans have become interested in remote control aircraft and doomsday tales.”
Box cutters and pressure cookers were considered to be pretty harmless until relatively recently. It’s called creative, opportunistic asymmetric warfare, i.e. thinking outside the box...not “Harry Potter” magic at all, IMO.
“Consider a drone carrying few pounds of nitroglycerin or acetone peroxide hitting a wing fuel tank or the cockpit.”
Bird-strike crashes demonstrate that NO on board explosives are necessary when the relatively tiny mass of a bird as small as a kestrel, and certainly a larger goose gets amplified at take-off velocity generating sufficient KINETIC ENERGY to destroy jet turbine.
It some ways I am reluctant to offer ideas ... but exploring them is perhaps the best way to find a preventative. The Jihadies are quite cleaver - so they will probably figure out and attack plan on their own... However, one thing that has not been offered is using a proximity detonation of with fragmentation - kinda like the Jihadi’s pressure cooker bomb without the pressure cooker. The copter drone carries one of those large cannon burst fireworks wrapped with shrapnel. The copter drone is guided in as close as possible and remotely detonated... Run up several of these from different angles and I suspect it would have a pretty serious effect - ‘cause you only have to get close.
“Threads like this one make me glad that evil people aren’t often very dedicated to lifetimes of study or hard work in any single pursuit of skills or invention.”
Some aren’t, but some are.
You will recall that the 911 planning team were engineers who calculated that if they crashed a fully fueled 757 into a Trade Tower it would collapse the tower as it did.
In the first Trade Tower bombing in 1993, these same engineers ALMOST succeeded in causing one tower to fall into the other and they did this be figuring exactly the location in the basement of the first tower and how much explosive would be needed to achieve that exactly the way that a lumberjack aims a tree to fall in a certain direction.
They also sent four highly educated, intelligent men to flying school to learn how to fly after they had seized the aircraft opportunistically with BOXCUTTERS.
I regard these dedicated Islamists to be fully capable of continuing to find new ways to crash airliners adding to:
1. shoe bomb
2. underwear bomb
3. toner cartridge bomb
We must not underestimate our enemy!
In brief, plain speech, it would be too difficult for anyone to hit a jet engine on a landing aircraft with a tiny, remote controlled helicopter. A tiny, remote controlled helicopter would be seen well in advance of doing any damage—not a situation that terrorists would like. Those toys have very limited time in the air (batteries) and are very easily affected by winds.
If a large jet aircraft were to hit such an object, it would probably land safely enough anyway. Many large aircraft that hit birds have landed intact except for engine/windscreen damage. Our enemies could much more easily design and build rockets to do that kind of damage to us, but they simply haven’t been so technologically motivated, yet. Even more easily than that, terrorists could buy antiaircraft weapons from the countries of our “trading partners” so preferred by big shot constituents over us: their own fellow Americans.
Cross-posting from my other thread today:
Mini copters hitting a 747 aint going to bring it down.
Thanks for your comment. I appreciate real-world military related experience.
Your examples did not involve intentional ingestion of a drone by a high-bypass turbofan...a very delicate machine.
As posted up-thread, here, again is the link to the crash of a 747 freighter which was done in by a tiny kestrel bird:
The aircraft experienced a stall in its inboard right-hand Pratt & Whitney JT9D engine after it ingested a kestrel during the take-off roll on 25 May last year.
A single Canada Goose can take out a jet engine as seen with Captain Sullys crash in the Hudson and with the AWACS Yukla-27 crash, and they weigh less and have softer parts than available cheap multi-copters.
Here is the accident report on the AWACS Yukla-27, which inspired my blog (please check the blog out when you get home!):
52 posted on Thursday, May 2, 2013 2:48:38 PM by Seizethecarp ((Defend aircraft from “runway kill zone” mini-drone helicopter swarm attacks: www.runwaykillzone.com)