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British Airways pilot reports midair drone collision above Heathrow

A British Airways pilot yesterday claimed that his plane - carrying 132 passengers and five crew members - suffered a midair collision with a drone as it approached Heathrow airport.

The pilot was able to safely land the plane at Heathrow's terminal five, before contacting the Metropolitan Police. No-one has yet been arrested and, as reported by The Guardian, the plane was cleared by engineers for take off for its next flight.

Steve Landells, flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said: “Frankly it was only a matter of time before we had a drone strike given the huge numbers being flown around by amateurs who don’t understand the risks and the rules. It appears that no serious damage was done on this occasion, but what is clear is that while most drones are flown safely, sensibly and within the limits of the law, much more education of drone users and enforcement of the rules is needed to ensure our skies remain safe from this threat.”

This is not the first time a drone has been spotted flying close to a plane. A recent report by the UK Airprox Board found that, between April and October 2015, there were 23 instances of near-misses between drones and aircraft.

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. A number of practical steps should be taken, including requiring drones to be registered, tougher penalties for irresponsible behaviour, and technology based solutions that will prevent the drones entering restricted airspace in the first place.

"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.”

As drones continue to become more popular and more advanced, the potential dangers will become even more prominent. If the trend continues, they could easily become the next big security issue for airlines.

Image source: Shutterstock/Markus Mainka