Pilot reports drone flown “deliberately close“ to aircraft in Essex

In a first of its kind incident in the UK, a pilot reported a small hobby drone flying ''deliberately close'' towards his passenger plane, The Independent reported yesterday.

According to reports, the quadcopter came to within 25 metres (82 feet) of the 74-passenger capacity AT72 plane on the 30th of May as it approached the Southend airport in Essex.

According to the UK Airprox Board which handles complains from pilots and air traffic controllers over near collisions, the incident was reported in the same week that the British Airline Pilots Association warned that small drones ''pose a growing safety risk''.

The pilot told the control tower at Southend Airport of having seen a ''remote-control helicopter with a very small engine''. He later confirmed it was a quadcopter, adding ''from my point of view it was too close''.

As per the report while ''there was too little information available to make a meaningful analysis of the occurrence or to accurately assess the risk [] members were disappointed that someone would fly a quadcopter so high on the extended approach path to an airport". The incident received grade "D" for risk.

Meanwhile according to The Mirror, drones could end up being more trouble than what they were worth if the reported incident was indeed true.

The 74-seater ATR 72 was flying at an altitude of about 1,500 feet when the drone, whose owner was never traced came in close proximity.

The incident raises concerns that drones could soon pose substantial aviation risk with reckless users trying to disrupt passenger flights and increase the chances of a disaster.

In March it had been reported that a drone almost collided with a passenger plane near Tallahassee, Florida – an incident at almost 2,000 feet.

The concerns would certainly lead to a tightening of regulations about drone use before a major tragedy occurred.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) was scheduled to meet a parliamentary committee yesterday to discuss the rules over who would be able to fly drones.

According to commentators, the talks could lead to larger drone operators requiring a pilot's licence in order to operate them, while the threat of smaller drones coming into contact with passenger planes would continue to be an issue.