flying drone

Airliner narrowly avoids drone hovering above primary school, as drone near-miss incidents triple

An airliner almost smashed into a drone hovering 150 metres over a primary school, according to an official report.

The DH8 turboprop aircraft was on its final approach into Birmingham Airport on 7 September 2016 when the pilot spotted the device, the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) said.

He reported that the drone was hovering above a primary school at the same altitude as his plane as he was coming in to land.

The aircraft continued on its flight path to the airport as its separation with the drone was estimated to be around 500 metres.

The incident is just the latest in a series of near-misses between drones and aircraft that are increasing in frequency.

The number of Category A serious drone-related incidents - where there is a serious risk of collision involving passenger jets - almost tripled to 23 in the UK last year, compared to eight in 2015, according to a recent report by the Daily Mail. 

This has prompted the Department for Transport (DfT) to consider implementing mandatory registration for new drones in a bid to crack down on reckless users. 

Following the 7 September incident West Midlands Police were informed, but they were unable to locate the drone or its operator.

Contact was also made with the school to alert them about the presence of the drone.

The near-miss report concluded: “The drone operator, by operating at that position and altitude on the approach path to Birmingham Airport, had flown the drone into conflict and had endangered the DH8 and its passengers.”

It was one of seven near misses between aircraft and drones in the latest monthly UKAB report, bringing the total number of all categories of reported drone incidents over the past 12 months to 60.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) wants the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to back research into the possible consequences of a drone hitting a passenger jet.

Former RAF and British Airways pilot Steve Landells has warned that a drone hitting an airliner could result in an uncontrolled engine failure or a smashed cockpit windscreen.

CAA rules state that drones must not be flown above 120 metres, nor near airports or airfields.

In November it launched a new website to publish its revised code of conduct for drones, labelled the dronecode. 

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