Rather alarming news came out regarding London Heathrow airport today, as the UK Airprox Board’s monthly report was published. A Virgin Atlantic aircraft arriving from Delhi reportedly came within 10ft of hitting a drone on approach. This means that the drone was being flown outside of the legal limits. The incident is the latest in a string of events which see tougher regulations being placed on those who do follow the rules, because of those who don’t. In fact, just this week the University of Dayton released a video showing how devastating the effects of a drone strike can be.
VS301 was on approach to London Heathrow Airport just before 1600. The aircraft was flying at roughly 3,200ft on approach to runway 27L. The pilot then reported that a drone-like object flew right past the aircraft, going underneath the aircraft’s wing by around 10ft. The pilot classified the incident which happened above Clapham common as being high risk. The incident has been quoted as the “closest ever” near miss with a drone at Heathrow, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.
What Are The Rules Regarding Drone Flight?
With drones readily available online and in high street shops, the UK’s CAA has come up with a “Drone Code”. The drone code is intended to keep drone operators within the legal limits at all times while being easy to follow. The drone code even follows the acronym “drone”, so it always easy to remember.
Don’t fly near airports or airfields;
Remember to stay below 400ft (120m);
Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property;
Never fly near aircraft;
The drone code is designed so that operators of drones stay legal at all times. Unfortunately, many people ignore these rules, either through ignorance or carelessness. Failure to comply with the drone code could see individuals criminally prosecuted. The CAA even states “If your drone endangers the safety of an aircraft it is a criminal offence and you could go to prison for five years”.
Unfortunately, prosecutions are rare, as it is hard to find a drone operator once an incident has been reported. Many companies are currently trying to work on systems to disable and identify drones near airports. In fact, many of the larger, more capable drone manufacturers now include special software. This doesn’t let drones fly within a certain range of an airport. Near misses with drones are unlikely to decrease in frequency. This means that the rules regarding operation are likely to get much stricter.
What is your stance on drones? Let us know in the comments down below!