Near-Miss Incident Raises Concerns Over Drone Safety

British Airways Flight Narrowly Avoids Collision with Drone at 10,000 Feet

A British Airways flight carrying around 180 passengers recently experienced a close call with a drone while approaching London Heathrow . The incident, which occurred on January 3, has raised serious concerns about the dangers posed by illegally operated drones to commercial aviation, as reported by The Independent.

According to the report filed by the UK Airprox Board, the A321 was flying at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet and a speed of 250 mph when the pilots spotted an object believed to be a drone. The pilot described the encounter as “extremely close,” with the drone passing just 5 feet over the aircraft's right wing and 30 feet from the cockpit.

“They became aware of an object slightly to the right of the nose at same level on a constant bearing with closing distance. It was small but had the distinctive shape of a drone,” reads the report.

The drone was reportedly flying at an altitude 24 times higher than the limit of 400 feet in the UK. This flagrant violation of aviation regulations has prompted calls for stricter enforcement and harsher penalties for those who endanger aircraft by operating drones irresponsibly.

Potential Catastrophic Consequences

Experts warn that a collision between a drone and an aircraft could have devastating consequences. Drones can be sucked into jet engines or shatter cockpit windscreens, potentially causing a catastrophic accident. The increasing prevalence of drones in recent years has led to a rise in near-miss incidents, highlighting the need for better regulation and for drone operators.

Doubts Raised Over Drone Sighting

Despite the pilot's report, some skepticism has been expressed regarding the identification of the object as a drone. The UK Airprox Board noted that radar analysis did not reveal any primary or secondary contacts associated with the reported drone at the time of the incident. In the past, objects such as plastic bags, balloons, and birds have been mistaken for drones by pilots.

While it is possible that the pilot did indeed spot a drone, the high altitude and speed of the aircraft make a definitive identification challenging. Nevertheless, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to drone regulations and the potential risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Calls for Stricter Regulation and Penalties

In light of this near-miss incident, there have been renewed calls for stricter regulation and harsher penalties for those who violate drone laws. Operating a drone in a manner that endangers an aircraft can result in a prison sentence of up to five years in the UK. However, many argue that more needs to be done to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place.

British Airways has stated that they take such matters extremely seriously and that their pilots report incidents to enable authorities to investigate and take appropriate action. As the use of drones continues to grow, it is crucial that measures are put in place to ensure the safety of commercial aviation and the traveling public.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, 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 @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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