In the United Kingdom, a drone incident with a commercial airplane is making headlines. Not only is this incident yet another peg in the ever increasing wheel of drone near-misses, it also shows great danger. Danger, that is far greater than the rest of the airplane incidents that has been happening over the past few months.
A drone recently came extremely close to a passenger airplane at Heathrow Airport. What separates this incident with all the other drone near-misses is its proximity. This particular drone came within 20 feet of the Airbus 319 commercial plane while it was taking off. This distance is extremely dangerous to the point that the UK Airprox Board gave it the highest-risk rating.
This drone confrontation put the lives of the plane’s on-board crew at risk, as well as the 160 passengers in transit. Heathrow is the world’s second busiest airport. It has an estimated annual passenger traffic of over 71 million travelers internationally. A drone incident of this magnitude severely threatens the lives of millions of people who fly there on a daily basis.
The drone was a white in color and medium sized, while its owner was nowhere in sight. The owner who haphazardly flew a drone in an airport where hundreds of fights occur daily disappeared. But alas, like all other drone incidents in airports, the owner was long gone before the authorities could take action.
The Heathrow incident apparently had the drone passing directly overhead of the passenger plane while it was lifting off. The on-board crew could do nothing as the drone flew by quickly and disappeared. Evasive maneuver could not be possible as the plane was still taking off, with barely any momentum behind it.
Drones owned by individuals for leisure purposes are only limited to 400 feet up in the air. These UAVs must also be within the line of sight of its owner for the entire duration of its flights. Even with stricter regulations being implemented, these near-collisions never seem to waver. On the contrary, the incidents have multiplied in number the past year alone, making airports more dangerous to be in.