Why are drones for sale at Metro Airport?

Posted at 11:45 PM, Oct 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-01 23:45:34-04

Over the past year, an increasing number of close calls with drones have prompted major airports to stop sales. However, our undercover investigation at Detroit Metro, found no shortage of them on shelves.

While drones seem to be innocent toys to some, pilots who've seen them up close know the real dangers.

"It was a four bladed drone, the color I'm not sure of. It just popped underneath our nose," says one pilot.

That's echoed by Retired USMC Col. Stephen Ganyard who tells us now, "Sooner or later we are going to lose an airplane due to a drone collision."

The FAA has banned flying drones within 5 miles of airports. But, they still continue to pose serious problems. Throughout the country, they keep getting frighteningly close to planes.

Because of the close calls, there was an uproar in August, when drones were found for sale in stores at Kennedy and Newark. Officials in New York and New Jersey, moved fast banning the sale of drones immediately.

But here in Detroit, we found a very different picture.

Stroll into Brookstone in the McNamara terminal and you'll find five different drones for sale. Among them, the $500 Parrot Bebop Drone which can fly more than a mile, and hit speeds of nearly 30 miles an hour. Some passengers are concerned.

"No, I don't think it's wise to sell them at airports, I think there is enough to worry about at airports in general," says passenger Cristiana Chamberlain.

Passenger Robert Clay adds, "I wouldn't sell them here, someone could easily walk out and send one up and it would mess with flights."

But, others including airport spokesman Mike Conway disagree.

"What they sell at Brookstone is basically a toy. It's not a concern for us. They're in the secure area of the concourse. If you started flying around in the concourse, airport police would come and visit you and be very interested," says Conway.

Ken Hill, another passenger also adds, "Buy them at the airport or not, they sell them everywhere else like Walmart. So, it's more about where you use them at."

Indeed, it all comes back to the airport.

Another pilot, David Lynn says he's always on alert for drones.

"Couple weeks ago, I was flying into Atlanta, air traffic control warned us that there had been an earlier report of one. It could be ingested into the airplane and cause severe damage, and quite likely shut down an engine," he says.

Former military intelligence and counterterrorism official Lyle Dungy says that's why this is all worth a closer look.

"You can not use it within a certain number of feet from the airport, so why would you sell one at an airport where it can potentially get loose," says Dungy.

We did reach out Brookstone for a response to this story. So far, our calls and emails have not been returned.

Meantime, Detroit Metro Airport does not plan to change it's position on drone sales.