Drones are still presenting a haphazard hazard to British pilots, with four near-miss reports being made during a five-day period in June alone.
Two near-misses occurred on 23 June, with the aircraft involved being a Boeing 747 and a light aircraft.
In the case of the 747, its pilot reported seeing “a drone” while flying at 200kts and 4,000ft over Wokingham, a few miles south-east of Reading.
The pilot of the light aircraft, a privately operated Jabiru J340, about the size and shape of a typical Cessna, was at 1,400ft in the circuit at Welshpool Airport (about 48km /30 miles west of Birmingham) when he saw “a white drone in the left 11 o’clock position, about 50m below him, which moved quickly in front of his aircraft and climbed to the 2 o’clock position, about 100ft above, at which point he lost sight of it.”
Senior figures from the Civil Aviation Authority have publicly expressed doubts as to whether all reported drone airproxes are, in fact, drones, and some have suggested that overzealous pilots are reporting items such as plastic bags caught by the wind as drones.
However, other reports made that week were more credible.
A Cessna Citation business jet flying over Grays, south Essex, had a near miss on 25 June with what its pilot reported as “a day-glo orange drone with four rotors and an under-slung camera housing with a ‘fisheye’ lens bubble, estimated to be about 1 cubic ft. It could have been hovering, although it looked to be slowly drawing to the right.” He assessed the risk of collision as “high”, while the UK Airprox Board said the drone's operator could not be traced.
Most startlingly, an Airbus A340 pilot flying at 9,000ft and passing just south of the Metropolitan Police's helicopter base at Lippitts Hill in Essex saw a “multi-copter type” drone “just below and to the right of the nose of the aircraft” at a distance of between 100ft and 200ft. Despite the operator's evident proximity to the police, the operator could not be traced.
The European Union is planning to introduce heavy regulation for private drones, with bloc-wide aerospace regulator EASA having published a set of draft regulations some weeks ago. These regulations would effectively ban the use of home-made drones weighing more than 250g. ®
*Air proximity hazard