|Drone danger call.. Picture: Courtesy London Evening Standard|
Drones were involved in at least 13 near misses with passenger jets using London’s airports last year, the London Evening Standard reports.
The newspaper claims the shocking figures fuelled fears that the sharp growth in drone use could lead to a catastrophic crash over the capital.
Overall, the number of drone incidents involving Heathrow planes nearly quadrupled from seven in 2015 to 26 last year, according to reports by the UK Airprox Board.
Ten of them were category-A, meaning there was a “serious risk of collision”.
Two other such near misses happened with City Airport planes and one with a Stansted aircraft.
A further nine class-B drone incidents were reported where the safety of Heathrow planes “may have been compromised”, three for Gatwick and one for Stansted.
In total there were reports of at least 36 London-linked drone incidents involving passenger planes last year.
Investigators are still to publish probes into four Heathrow cases, one Gatwick, one City Airport, as well as one more over the Olympic Park.
Amid the growing alarm, ministers are now considering introducing tougher penalties for breaking laws on drones, including possibly a new offence of “misusing” them.
Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney, whose constituency is overflown by many planes, said: “In the wrong hands, drones are endangering the lives of passengers and thousands more on the ground.
“There should be an annual report to Parliament on drone incidents over London and other highly-populated areas.”
The Heathrow cases where the collision risk was assessed by pilots as “high” include an A320 close to the Shard, on July 18, an A320 close to Osterley Park, west London, on May 1, an A320 over East Barnet, north London, on August 15, an A321 on final approach to the airport on March 28, an A320 on climb-out on February 14, and an A320 near Slough on March 30.
An E190 jet which had left City Airport on July 20 was involved in a drone incident with a “medium” collision risk.
A drone must always be flown at least 50m distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure that you are not in control of
A drone must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
Drone operators must respect flying restrictions over sensitive or high-risk sites such as airports.
Penalties for breaking the rules include a fine of up to £2,500, and an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison for endangering an aircraft.
The Civil Aviation Authority has also published a Dronecode to inform and educate the public around safe drone use. IT can be found at
The Civil Aviation Authority, which has published a ‘dronecode’, warned of the dangers of flying the aircraft near airports.
“Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations,” said a spokesman.
“It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and other aircraft and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including five years in prison.”
Heathrow stressed its top priority was the safety of passengers and workers.
“Anyone operating an unmanned aerial vehicle has an obligation to know the rules and ensure they are capable of operating it safely,” said a spokesman.
“Doing so in proximity to an airfield or aircraft is both illegal and clearly irresponsible.”
The airport called for stronger regulation by the Government and enforcement action to ensure airspace around British airports remains among the safest in the world.
A Stansted spokesman said: “Drones can pose a serious risk if flown near airports.
“Owners of drones are legally responsible for their safe flying, and could face prosecution if they breach CAA guidelines - which includes a complete ban on their use in the vicinity of airports, unless prior permission has been given.”
A DfT spokesman said: “We are working closely with the CAA and industry to adapt and strengthen regulations as drone use and the related technology evolves.”
The Government has published a consultation to tighten regulations on drones including proposals for a new system to ensure standards of pilot competency and qualifications, and to improve the restriction of drones flying in sensitive or dangerous areas, such as airports.
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