A plane landing at London’s Heathrow Airport earlier this year was 700 feet off the ground when the pilot spotted a remote-controlled drone too close for comfort, with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority assigning the incident its most dangerous possible rating. British pilots say that drones flown by amateur photographers and videographers represent a “real risk” to planes during landing and take-off.
Camera drone image via Shutterstock
The incident, which occurred on July 22, was recently rated ‘A’ by the UK CAA according to the BBC — the most severe incident rating in the Authority’s books, referring to a “serious risk of collision”. According to the CAA, after the incident was reported, the drone was unable to be located. It didn’t appear on air traffic control radar, either, likely due to its small and irregular cross-section.
In Australia, as in the UK, rules about flying drones are clear: no flying drones above 400 feet, and no operating the drone within 30 metres of people, vehicles or buildings. That doesn’t stop rules being broken, though, if the infringers aren’t caught. This most recent UK incident comes after a late May close call where a quadcopter passed within 25 metres of a landing passenger plane at Southend.
You also can’t fly a drone in Australia anywhere within 5km of an airport, similarly to the UK’s restriction of drones from airport approach corridors. Planespotting is a great hobby, but it seems like there are some people taking it a bit too enthusiastically. There are fines of up to $8,500 for disobeying regulator CASA’s drone rules.