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Plane Collides With ‘Drone’ Near London’s Heathrow Airport

April 18, 2016, 8:05 AM UTC
Flying drone with camera
Photogtaph by Buena Vista Images — Getty Images

A passenger jet hit a drone as it approached for landing at Heathrow Airport outside London, according to the pilot of the plane.

The pilot contacted the police after the successful landing of the Airbus A320, which was carrying 132 passengers and five crew. An investigation is underway, but no arrests have as yet been made.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association said the incident, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.K., was entirely predictable. After all, there have already been dozens of near-misses.

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The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a code of practice for drone owners that tells them to keep their autonomous flying vehicles away from aircraft and airports.

The CAA said the incident on Sunday was unacceptable, and if the person who was operating the craft is caught, he or she could face prison time.

However, the issue is catching the operator. Unlike in the U.S., the U.K. does not currently mandate the registration of drones.

The U.K.’s Department of Transport is due to publish a drone strategy this year. Pilots have been calling on the government to conduct tests of what would happen if a drone went through a plane’s windscreen or got sucked into one of its engines, and this incident — where the drone struck the front of the plane — will likely prompt a greater sense of urgency.

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