Willis Towers Watson launch drone disruption aviation action plan

30 August 2019 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read

Global business advisory and brokerage Willis Towers Watson has launched a drone disruption action plan to deal with the rising modern threat.

Over three days in the lead up to Christmas last year, the world watched on - and, for many tens of thousands, waited on – as a series of drone sightings near the runway of Gatwick Airport caused widespread havoc, affecting around 1,000 flights and more than 120,000 passengers. It may have been the most publicised, but it was far from the only such incident – with Singapore’s Changi Airport in June among the latest of international airports to succumb to malicious attacks.

Other airports which have been forced to delay flights this year have included Heathrow, Frankfurt and Dubai, all of which are among the fifteen busiest passenger hubs on the planet. As such, any delays can cause serious logistical headaches, as well as being incredibly costly. According to a previous estimate, Dubai airport loses close to $100,000 for every minute of closure. The half an hour shutdown in February alone then – caused by some “guy in the desert” according to officials – resulted in losses of $3 million.

With expectations the problem will only continue to grow, global advisory and insurance brokerage Willis Towers Watson has in response released a disruption action plan aimed at dealing specifically with drone technology through strategic risk mitigation strategies such as developing a single internal reporting point for sightings and early engagement with airline operators. It follows the launch of the firm’s collaborative Airport Risk Community initiative last year.

Willis Towers Watson launch drone disruption aviation action plan

“Drone-related incidents at airports may be a recent phenomenon, but they are expected to increase in frequency, complexity and severity as drones become larger and more powerful,” said Jago Harvard-Walls, Client Relationship Director and Transportation Lead for WTW in Asia. “Airports need to prepare for potential attacks through effective risk management and there are a number of steps that airports can take to prepare for these scenarios.”

According to Harvard-Walls and the WTW action-plan, these steps include assessing, locating and understanding the type of drone that has infringed the airspace, but also cover concerns for potential property damage, legal liability, and the risk to reputation. The plan further outlines the current insurance solutions available, and the multi-stakeholder collaborative approach the firm says is needed to develop new and innovative solutions for the aviation community.

“Managing the airport risk landscape effectively requires the engagement and collective expertise of the sector to help build a more resilient airport industry, whilst supporting the potential for growth,” said Scott Burnett, WTW’s Head of Asia, who last year had his role expanded to include leadership of the firm’s Corporate Risk & Broking business in Asia. “As we have seen with the recent events in Gatwick and Singapore, and the subsequent re-routing of flights, drone technology is increasingly sophisticated and causes extensive disturbance."

Burnett continued; “Through the Airport Risk Community (ARC) founded by Willis Towers Watson, we aim to enable our airport clients to share best practices, risk mitigation strategies and identify emerging people and asset risks alongside innovative solutions so that the airport sector can build operational resilience, support sustainability and innovation to tackle industry risks.” The ARC will hold the 2019 Airport Conference in Rome from the 18th to 20th of September.