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The UK Airprox Board, the agency responsible for investigating aerial near-misses in the United Kingdom, published its monthly report recently, containing an overview of near-misses it had investigated over the past few months. One significant near-miss reported involved a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 and a civilian drone. According to the report, the civilian drone came within just 10 feet of the passenger jet as it descended into London-Heathrow (LHR).
Sky News has reported that this incident is likely, “the closest ever near-miss between one of the gadgets [a drone] and a commercial airliner” in the United Kingdom. The pilots of the Boeing 787-9 bound for London stated that they reported seeing the drone on approach into London Heathrow as they descended through 3,200 feet. The legal maximum altitude for civilian drones in the United Kingdom is just 400 feet. UK law also restricts drones from entering the airspace of most airports, stating that drones must remain 1 kilometer outside of the airspace of major airports. Additionally, the Airprox Board report states that “The drone was being flown beyond VLOS (visual line of sight) limits and on an airfield approach path such that it was endangering other aircraft at that altitude and position.” Drones are required to remain in the visual line of sight of civilian pilots at all times.
On June 25, Virgin Atlantic Flight 301 was nearing the end of an eight-hour-and-thirteen-minute flight originating in New Delhi, India, when pilots reported seeing the drone in close proximity to their aircraft. The Boeing 787-9 was reportedly full, carrying up to 264 passengers. Data from Flightradar24 and from the Airprox report shows that the drone encounter didn’t require the Boeing 787-9 to have to make any evasive last-second maneuvers and the aircraft landed at London-Heathrow without incident.
As drones have become more affordable and found at a growing number of retailers across the UK and the United States, concerns over civilian drones have grown in both countries. Legislation has been passed in both the UK and the US that require drones of a certain weight to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (UK) or the Federal Aviation Administration (US). Altitude and airspace restrictions have also been imposed on civilian drones, however, incidents like the one involving Virgin Atlantic 301 have grown increasingly common in recent years.
Featured image by Marcio Rodrigo Machado / S3studio / Getty Images.
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