Drone strikes British Airways plane near Heathrow

It is believed a drone hit the front of the passenger jet as it attempted to land.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

An investigation is underway after a passenger plane was hit by what is believed to be a drone.

British Airways

A drone crashing into a passenger jet near Heathrow Airport has prompted an investigation by the police and British Airways.

On Sunday, a flight launched by carrier British Airways from Geneva was hit as it approached Heathrow Airport's landing strip.

As reported by the BBC, the plane had 132 passengers and five crew members on board at the time of the incident, in which BA believes an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), otherwise known as a drone, hit the front of the jet.

The aircraft, BA727, was able to land safely.

The Metropolitan Police is now investigating the incident, but no arrests have yet been made. If investigators confirmed the collision was caused by a drone, despite a number of near-misses, this would be the first case of such a crash in the UK.

A BA spokesman told the publication that the plane was "fully examined" by engineers and has been cleared for flying with no lasting damage.

In a statement, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said "it is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment."

Statistics provided by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) reveal the UK has experienced a number of near-misses in recent years involving drones.

The agency says that in 2015, out of 25 incidents which almost involved a collision, four of these included drones which were being flown too closely to London City, Gatwick and Heathrow airport.

The CAA has released the "Dronecode," which clearly sets out the UK's rules on enthusiasts using UAVs. Within the guidelines, the CAA notes that users should keep their drones in their view at all times, and should not fly above 400 feet -- as beyond this line, helicopters and commercial jets will often be crossing the skies.

In addition, enthusiasts who are flying drones equipped with cameras should not fly them within 50 meters of people, vehicles or buildings, and especially at times when there are large gatherings or events.

In other words, common sense is key. It may only be a matter of time before a drone ends up smashing a rescue helicopter's windscreen or forcing a passenger jet to land -- and while it is not necessarily an easy task to prosecute drone operators, it is their responsibility to keep the hobby from injuring others.

James Stamp, global head of aviation at KPMG commented:

"People who fly drones in controlled airspace are potentially putting lives in danger, and should be subject to the strongest possible sanctions available under the law.

More research is also required into the potential impact of collisions because, while the impact of bird-strikes has been well researched, the impact of drone impacts is less well understood."

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