Round, Purple, Illegal Drone Buzzes Airliner at Heathrow

In a hair-raising episode at Heathrow, the primary runway was shut down as a drone (balloon?!), piloted illicitly, came perilously close to colliding with an airliner traveling at nearly 200mph. The alarming drone incident was first identified when the drone was spotted hovering at a height of 3,000ft by the pilots of two incoming passenger jets.

This narrative commenced when the pilots of a Rome-originated Finnair flight received a warning from air traffic controllers about the rogue drone, hovering about three miles south of Maidenhead, Berkshire. However, the UK Airprox Board's report stated that the pilots chose to proceed with the flight, as the drone seemed to remain to the right of their flight path.


The suspense heightened when the drone passed under the left wing, narrowly missing the engine of the A320 aircraft, potentially hosting up to 174 passengers. “The Finnair pilots rated the risk of a collision as ‘high',” the report noted, as the drone hovered between 3ft and 10ft right beneath their aircraft, approximately ten miles west of Heathrow. This incident is reportedly considered one of the most severe near misses involving a drone and an airliner in UK airspace.

Surprisingly, the drone was operated at over seven times the maximum height of 400ft for drones and had a round-shaped appearance, displaying a purple/turquoise hue.

The Finnair plane proceeded to land safely on Heathrow's northern runway just before 12:40 pm on April 8. However, post-landing, the runway known as RW09L was promptly shut down for subsequent flights.


In light of the imminent danger, other planes were rerouted to land on the southern runway, known as RW09R, to avoid the drone's pathway. As per the UKAB, the incident was designated a Category A incident, representing a significant risk of collision.

“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,” the report stated.

Interestingly, the drone operator remains unknown, but if identified, they could face up to five years in prison for endangering an aircraft. This adds to the growing list of near misses between drones and passenger aircraft in UK airspace.

These dangerous encounters often result from rogue operators illegally overriding maximum altitude software to capture dramatic videos of passing aircraft. Pilots continually highlight the potential risks of drones shattering cockpit windows or damaging jet engines, particularly during critical phases of flight.

Reflecting on the incident, a Finnair spokesperson said, “Flying drones in areas where it is strictly forbidden shows that some drone enthusiasts have ignored safety regulations.”

The airline emphasized the importance of a strong safety culture and the detrimental impact of such irresponsible activities on air traffic safety and flight operations.

Photo courtesy of Pixar.

Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Proposed legislation threatens your ability to use drones for fun, work, and safety. The Drone Advocacy Alliance is fighting to ensure your voice is heard in these critical policy discussions.Join us and tell your elected officials to protect your right to fly.

Drone Advocacy Alliance
Follow us on Google News!

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3612

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.