Drones are ‘often marketed as toys’ but could ‘easily cause catastrophic damage in a collision’, warns the UK Airprox board. It is not known what type and make of drone was involved in the near miss at Heathrow. The drone user has not been traced

The pilot of an A320 plane spotted a black object that appeared to be ‘propeller-driven’ on his approach path to the airport on Sunday 15 March.

An official report of the incident released by the UK Airprox Board states: ‘The object passed about 50ft directly above the aircraft. ATC [air traffic control] were informed. The pilot did not take avoiding action, and the approach was continued to a normal landing. The pilot stated that the object was rectangular in shape and appeared to be propeller driven, “like a drone”.’

The report added that ‘despite extensive investigation, a drone operator could not be traced’.

The incident took place at 9.23am, at a height of 1,700ft.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said: ‘People using drones should apply common sense when thinking about where to fly their devices. It is clearly irresponsible to fly a drone close to an airport or anywhere near other airspace users, that includes aeroplanes, helicopters, as well as things like paragliders and hang gliders.

‘Users have to take responsibility for their actions, and that includes taking measures to avoid collisions. Failure to do so could have serious consequences. Anyone breaching the safety rules can be prosecuted.’

CAA rules state that a drone must not be flown within 50m of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the pilot. They must not be flown more than 400ft above surface-level, unless appropriate air traffic control unit permission is obtained.

Furthermore, drones must not be flown within controlled or restricted airspace, or an aerodrome traffic zone without the permission of air traffic control.

Earlier this year, Amateur Photographer magazine quizzed the UK’s aviation watchdog about drone use. See the video interview below:

Drones – the rules


The CAA’s guide to flying drones

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