A Polish F-16 has collided with a civilian drone, underlining concerns many aviators have with the growing popularity of the unlicensed and uncontrolled aerial vehicles. Damage sustained by the aircraft was only discovered when engineers conducted post-flight checks. The Fighting Falcon suffered mostly cosmetic damage, with scratching to the fuel tanks protective coating.
However, Unit Colonel Rafał Zadęcki believed the incident could have been considerably more serious, saying “If any parts got into the engine, it could have been completely damaged and disconnected the engine during the flight”
An investigation has been commissioned by the Polish Air Force to determine the circumstances surrounding the collision. The area around the 31st Tactical Air Force Base at Krzesiny, Poznań is classified as restricted air space and anyone found to have operated a drone in the area faces a jail term of up to five years. This is not the first incident in recent years where a drone has been operated in the vicinity of a Polish Air Force base, as in March of 2014 an unidentified aerial vehicle dropped flares over the military section of Balice Airport. The incident in Balice is still the subject of an ongoing investigation by the state prosecutor’s office.
NATS, the body responsible for controlling airspace in the UK, has published guidance for enthusiasts operating drones, officially termed Remotely Piloted Aircraft. Those operating RPAs in the vicinity of restricted airspace have been warned they face prosecution if their actions endanger others.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed for the United States Air Force. Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. The aircraft has been exported globally, being one of the most successful export aircraft produced.