Near misses prompt UK to warn drone users

LONDON • A "near miss" involving a drone flying just metres from an Airbus A320 at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, has prompted the British authorities to warn drone operators to keep to the rules or suffer serious penalties.

Yesterday's warning came after an incident in Poland on Monday, when a Lufthansa plane with 108 passengers on board nearly collided with a drone as it approached Warsaw's main airport.

And the US authorities are investigating a video of an alleged armed drone.

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) warned of the risks after seven recorded incidents of drones flying near planes between May last year and this March at airports.

The most serious, involving the A320, was in July last year, when a small black object flew 6m above the plane's wing as it came in to land - an incident classed as having a high risk of collision. In Britain, doing anything to recklessly endanger an aircraft is a criminal offence, but the authorities failed to trace the drone operator in the Heathrow case.

"Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world," said the CAA.

The CAA has set up a "drone code", bringing together existing air safety rules and putting them online to publicise them.

Under Britain's Air Navigation Order, drone pilots must keep their craft within sight - effectively no more than 500m away - not fly them higher than 122m and, if fitted with a camera, must stick to other guidelines when near people, buildings or at events.

With the use of commercial drones for applications from filming to sports events booming, the European Union is working on new rules for drones, which will be part of a new aviation package this year.

And the Federal Aviation Administration in the US is investigating an online video that appears to show a home-made "drone" firing a semi-automa-tic handgun. It was filmed by engineering student Austin Haughwout from Connecticut.

But his father said the 18-year-old had built a remote-controlled quadcopter, not a drone.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Near misses prompt UK to warn drone users'. Print Edition | Subscribe