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Drone pilot behind Heathrow Airport 'near-miss' evades authorities

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By John McCarthy | Media editor

December 8, 2014 | 3 min read

The operator of a drone which nearly collided with a Heathrow passenger plane carrying 180 people has evaded authorities, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Heathrow Airport as seen from above

Following an investigation, the results of which will be published this Friday (12 December), the CAA confirmed that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) nearly hit an Airbus A320 carrying 180 people on 22 July.

The CAA has branded the event with ‘A’ danger rating, a ‘serious risk of collision’ which is the highest warning the agency can issue, according to BBC News.

The drone, which was small enough to evade air traffic control’s radar but heavy enough to cause severe damage to an aircraft’s engine, was spotted at 700 feet by the Airbus’s pilot but quickly disappeared after the incident.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of the CAA, told BBC News: “The risk of a 10 kilogram object hitting a plane is a real one that pilots are very concerned about.

“A small drone could be a risky distraction for a pilot coming into land and cause serious damage if they hit one.”

McAuslan asserted that rules are already enforced to deter such accidents. CAA regulations forbid drones from flying above 400 feet or more than 500 metres from operators. Furthermore, craft exceeding seven kilograms are forbidden from use around airports.

Such incidents could become more common in future with unmanned drones retailing for as little as £50 this Christmas. Furthermore, Boris Johnson announced last week his dream of filling London’s skies with drones to lessen the stress on the capital’s roads.

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