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Drone in a 'deliberate' near miss with airliner over Southend Airport

Drones are one of the newest and fastest-growing technologies out there, but their rapid proliferation hasn't been without its problems. Whether it's causing privacy issues, being used to deliver marijuana to prisons, or just getting on the wrong side of an overly aggressive hawk, drone technology is definitely in the teething stages. And now a drone has come dangerously close to colliding with a passenger aircraft, according to a report filed with air safety body Airprox UK.

The drone, likely to be a quadrocopter, came within 25 metres of the small, 74 passenger capacity AT72 aircraft. The co-pilot of the aircraft said the quadcopter came "deliberately close" to its right wing-tip.

This near miss happened on 30 May 2014 during the descent phase of the airliner's flight into Southend Airport.

Drone comes "too close" to aircraft

The report is available online (though at the time of writing the link appears to be broken). You can read the cockpit transcript here for a sense of just how close the drone came:

AT72 "...for information when we were on the glide just about to intercept the glide er seen on the right side kind of er you know remote control helicopter er very small engine flying on the right side same altitude"

ATC "That's understood roughly what range when you saw that was it"

AT72 "Just before we intercept the glide was black and red"

ATC "That's understood er I'll make a note of that"

AT72 "Was not sure it was you know a helicopter it looks like it's a brand new thing that are flying around now on remote control"

ATC "Oh a quadcopter type thing maybe"

AT72 "Say again sorry"

ATC "Perhaps something like a quadcopter er we've had a couple of those around here er been reported"

AT72 "Yes exactly that"

ATC "Understood"

ATC "(AT72)c/s do you know roughly how far away the erm model was from you"

AT72 "er from my point of view it was too close"

ATC "Understood".

Investigators immediately contacted nearby model flying clubs and drone enthusiasts in order to trace the drone, but its whereabouts remain a mystery.

While drones and other small, unmanned aircraft are exempt from most regulations pertaining to aircraft in general, it's still illegal to "recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property", according to UK Airprox.

They said that after talking to drone flyers' clubs, "members were disappointed that someone would fly a quadcopter so high on the extended approach path to an airport, and that no quadcopter operator had come forward to help with the analysis," Airprox added.

Is this a harbinger of things to come, or air safety officials over-reacting? Let us know what you think in the comments section below, or stop by for a chat with the ITProPortal team and other readers on ITProPortal's tech talk live chat.