A Linhas Aereas de Mocambique (LAM) Boeing 737-700 is reported to have collided with a drone as it was approaching Chingozi Airport in Mozambique's Tete Province from the country's capital, Maputo.

LAM reports that as the Boeing 737 was about to land at Chingozi airport, the six onboard crew and eighty passengers heard a loud bang, which they initially thought was a bird crashing into the Boeing.

According to The Aviation Herald, drones weighing as much as 10 kg are used for mining surveys in the Tete region, which has a number of mineral and coal mining operations.

A map of map of mining licenses produced by the Environmental Justice Atlas shows that much of Tete Province is covered in mining concessions, with some in close proximity to Chingozi Airport. The airport's runway reportedly lies on a coal bed, meaning that it may have to be moved in order for mining to take place.

Map of Mining Licenses in Tete Province Mozambique
Map of Mining Licenses in Tete Province, Mozambique | Environmental Justice Atlas

Not everyone is convinced that the damage on the Boeing was caused by a drone as some aviation enthusiasts are arguing that with the absence of drone debris or any evidence the damage might as well have been caused by a bird.

According to witnesses on the ground, drones are routinely operated without regard for the aerodrome and aircraft traffic.

The aircraft's nose bore the brunt of the damage. Source: The Aviation Herald

Mining surveillance drones are known to be larger than your average photography or commercial drones as they come in at approximately 10 kilograms without a payload. Furthermore, Mozambique does not require certification or licensing to operate any kind of drone.

Mozambique does have drone regulations which among other points state that drone operators must "not fly drones near airports or in areas where aircraft are operating".

Whether or not the damage to the LAM Boeing 737-700 was caused by a drone remains unclear, but it does highlight the importance of drone licensing, certification and regulation, given the growing use of drones for commercial as well as recreational purposes, and their potential for interference with other aircraft.

UPDATE: In a statement issued on 10 January, Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Authority has concluded that the damage seen on the nose cone of the LAM Boeing 737 most probably resulted from structural failure caused by air flow pressure, not a drone as was previously reported. This was likely due to faulty installation of the radome during routine maintenance in June 2016.

Cover Image Credit: The Aviation Herald

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