Fraport, the operator of Frankfurt airport, one of continental Europe’s busiest, says that air traffic had to be completely halted on two days in 2023 due to drone incursions around the airfield.

In response to a parliamentary inquiry in the German state of Hesse, in which Frankfurt airport is located, Fraport says the incidents which restricted or shut down airport operations occurred on 6 July, for 85min, and 28 September, for 55min.

The document was published by the Hessian parliament on 10 April.

Frankfurt airport-c-Fraport

Source: Fraport

Fraport has been unable to quantify the cost of the drone disruption

All told, during 2023, air traffic was restricted on a total of 10 days, more than in any other year since Fraport first recorded drone activity in the vicinity of the airport in December 2017.

Between December 2017 and November 2023, Fraport noted 26 dates on which drone incursions had an impact on flight operations, including on six days on which traffic had to be halted completely for between 25min to over 1h. Fraport was unable to quantify the cost of the disruptions.

”Drones as a means of crime have been included in police crime statistics in Hesse since 2016,” the parliamentary document reads. ”Since 2016, 67 cases of dangerous interference with air traffic using a drone have been recorded.”

In addition, “between May 2022 and February 2024, 11 cases of drones flying into the Frankfurt control zone without air traffic control clearance in coordination with the Federal Air Traffic Control Supervisory Officer were investigated by the Darmstadt regional council.”

Passenger traffic at the company’s flagship airport in Frankfurt rose to 59.4 million in 2023, up 21% from the previous year, but still 16% lower than in 2019. The airport has more than 1,000 aircraft movements per day and said in March that it expects passenger volumes to rise to between 61 million and 65 million this year.

Unauthorised drone flying in the vicinity of large commercial airports has become a nuisance and a considerable safety issue in recent years. In December 2018, at least two drones flying close to London Gatwick airport closed the facility for 30h, causing disruption to 1,000 flights and over 140,000 passengers during a peak holiday period.