Drone pilots warned after near miss with passenger plane

One drone flew within 20ft of an Airbus about to land at Heathrow Credit: Niall Carson / PA Wire

The Civil Aviation Authority is warning that drones being flown as high up as 2,000ft are putting passenger aircraft in danger.

The CAA has now issued new safety guidelines, known as the "dronecode", to discourage hobbyists from using their equipment in areas where large aircraft are present, as ITV News' Peter Smith reports.

Last year one device believed to be a drone even came within 20ft of a passenger plane that was about to land at Heathrow Airport. The Airbus A320 was 700ft from landing when the pilot reported seeing an object pass over the wing during the incident in July.

CAA spokesperson Tim Johnson said: "Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world - a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders, light aircraft and now drones.

"When doing so, they must be aware of the rules and regulations for flying drones that are designed to keep all air users safe."

Recklessly endangering an aircraft in flight is a criminal offence in the UK and anyone convicted could be jailed for up to five years.

Six other incidents were reported between May 2014 and March this year at Heathrow, Rochester, Southend, Leeds Bradford and Norwich airports, and in the Peak District where a drone flew 20ft above a paraglider in October.

Steve Curtis from Higher Vision - an aerial photography company that use Drones to film - is concerned there are too many unqualified people flying drones, saying: "If something doesn’t actually improve the situation, there is a very genuine risk there will be a big tragedy."

The dronecode urges operators to keep the gadgets within their line of their sight and at a maximum height of 400ft. Drone users can be prosecuted under the Air Navigation Order 2009 if they are flown beyond their line of sight, which is measured as 500m horizontally or 400ft vertically.

It also warns drone users to use "common sense" and fly the devices away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields.

The CAA said it welcomed moves by drone manufacturers to build "geo-fencing" into their products which stops drones being flown into certain areas, such as airport control zones. It can also set a limit on how high a device can fly.