Washington, DC- (CNN)Drones have become an increasing nuisance for airports worldwide in recent months, and good solutions to keep them from interfering with flights aren't yet available.
Airports in various cities -- including Newark, New Jersey; Gatwick, England; Dublin, Ireland and Dubai -- have grounded planes in the last three months following drone sightings.
The incident at Gatwick in December proved especially disruptive, impacting the flights of more than 100,000 passengers. In 2017, a drone hit a commercial airplane approaching Quebec City in Canada. The plane landed safely.
Aviation experts fear catastrophic damage or death could result from a drone hitting an airplane. Such an incident could be accidental or motivated by ill will, such as a terrorist attack. A 2017 FAA study found that drones colliding with large aircraft can cause more damage than birds -- a threat the industry has long faced. There's also a business risk. Airlines risk losing millions of dollars from flight delays and cancellations. If air travel becomes more unpleasant, some travelers may switch to other modes like trains or driving.
The problem is urgent and fixes are lacking, according to Chris Oswald, senior vice president for safety and regulatory affairs at the Airports Council International-North America, which represents airport owners and operators.
"One major underlying concern across industry sectors is the lack of tested and fully vetted drone detection and counterdrone systems," Oswald told CNN Business. "That's a big issue on all of our members' minds. What can we do? What are steps we can take to mitigate drone events? How can we be proactive in detection?" Read more