Quadcopter drone flew 'too close' to Southend-bound plane

Map of aircraft route Image copyright UK Airprox Board
Image caption A diagram was issued based on radar and pilot reports

A drone came close to colliding with a passenger plane when it was "deliberately" flown close to the aircraft, a report has said.

The object, believed to be a quadcopter, came within 25m (82ft) of the AT72 coming in to land at Southend airport on 30 May.

A recently-issued report by the UK Airprox Board said the risk of collision was assessed as "high".

Police were contacted but the drone's operator could not be found.

The report said the plane's co-pilot "formed the impression that the quadcopter had been flown deliberately close".

He had seen it flying at the same level on one side of the aircraft, before it "made a turn to fly in the opposite direction to his aircraft, around 25m away and at the same level."

Air traffic controllers at Southend airport told the pilot "a couple" of quadcopters had previously been reported in the area.

Rules and regulations

The four-rotor craft are commonly used as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones and are exempt from many flying regulations because of their small size.

But they are subject to certain rules, including Article 138 of the Air Navigation Order, which states "a person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The quadcopter was spotted flying near the plane as it came in to Southend airport

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also prohibits the flying of drones over or within 150m of built-up areas.

The UK Airprox Board deals with aviation reports concerning "near misses", also known as an air proximity hazards.

Members of its board were said to be "disappointed that someone would fly a quadcopter so high on the extended approach path to an airport".

They decided the quadcopter was flown close enough to the plane "to cause its pilot concern".

Drones and the law

Image copyright Getty Images

Unless CAA permission has been granted the pilot cannot:

  • Fly over or within 150m (492 ft) of a congested area
  • Fly over or within 150m (492 ft) of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons
  • Fly within 50m (164 ft) of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
  • Fly within 50m (164 ft) of any person

Source: Civil Aviation Authority

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