MIAMI — Last Sunday a British Airways (BA) Airbus A320, on final approach to London’s Heathrow Airport, collided with an object believed to be an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). If confirmed, this would be the first collision ever between an airliner and a UAV, after a series of near misses events occurred in the recent months.
British Airways reported that the aircraft involved in the incident landed safely, and that it was subsequently cleared for its next flight after being inspected by BA’s engineering staff.
“Safety and security are always our first priority and we will give the police every assistance with their investigation.” A British Airways spokesperson said.
The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said that it was aware of the “possible incident” with an UAV, commonly known as drones, and that the incident is subject to investigation by the Metropolitan Police. At the same time, it reminded drone users of the existing “dronecode,” which forbids these from flying above 400 feet (122 meters) and requires them to stay away from aircraft, helicopters and airports.
“It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment,” the CAA said in a statement.
While the FAA has not enacted regulations for the commercial use of UAVs, it has already has regulations in place for recreational UAV users. The unmanned aircraft cannot weigh more than 55 pounds (25 kilograms), and it must remain in visual sight of the operator. Also, the UAVs cannot fly in a 5-mile (8 kilometer) radius from airports.
Despite of the rules, the number of near misses reported by pilots has increased in the recent months, just as the number of users of drones, including over 406,000 people that have registered in the FAA UAV registry since it was put online in late December.