View Full Version : Drone near miss

17th Nov 2016, 12:40
BBC midday news reports a near miss between an Airbus and a drone on approach to Heathhrow. Reported as missing wing by about 60 feet.

Sooner rather than later for a hit.

17th Nov 2016, 13:03
Three Heathrow flights in three days brush with drones

FlightGlobal -- UK investigators have disclosed details of three more encounters, within three days, between commercial aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in London terminal airspace, including two in the highest collision risk category.

The UK Airprox Board states that an Airbus A320-family aircraft had been descending on its base leg over central London ahead of an approach to Heathrow’s runway 27L when its pilots sighted a “black drone” through the right-hand cockpit windows.

Its crew estimated that the vehicle probably passed over the right wing and horizontal stabiliser. ...

Full article: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/three-heathrow-flights-in-three-days-brush-with-dron-431576/

17th Nov 2016, 13:20
It happened in July. On a previous thread about drones I was roundly abused for suggesting it is only a matter of time before the holes line up.

I haven't changed my mind.

17th Nov 2016, 13:36
So they were at ~5,000 feet doing, what, >200mph? Something about the size of a large pizza passed down one side of the aeroplane. Even if visually acquired at the earliest possible stage it would have been visible for 2-3 seconds, and as a detailed view perhaps half a second? Yet in this time the crew positively identified it as "a drone".


They then say it passed over the wing, 20m out from the fuselage, and "over the tailplane". Aside from the detail that the A320 tailplane semispan is under 7m (so it went nowhere near the tailplane) mhow the heck did the crew know this? How much of thie wing is visible from the pilot's seat? Or are we expected to believe that said crew opened the window and stuck their heads out to watch?

The whole report is clearly dubious in the extreme.

17th Nov 2016, 14:50
I have a perfect view of The Shard and The City approx., 2 miles away from the 400ft AMSL advantage point of a northward facing 4th floor roof top deck ( I almost wrote "sun" deck but this is Crystal Palace I'm talking about!) Most aircraft lining up for Heathrow describe a fairly leisurely 180 turn around the 700ft television transmitter so well that they look to be on strings - though a few do approach directly from the east. By the time they are over the said large pointy building - I have it on pretty good authority - they are around 3000ft and report that to ATC. So there's the first problem with the report - if this aircraft was at 5000 or 4900 - it would be 2/3rds higher than normal.

Looking at my diary - yes, I'm that old fashioned and pedantic - I see that Monday the 18th July was quite a lovely sunny day if a bit breezy and some of my time was spent looking at that view ;however; nothing I saw caused me to write anything about it. Though co-incidentally, there was a very large professional "drone" ( how I hate that term!) being flown locally around the same time but I didn't see it go above say 200ft over my roof level.

17th Nov 2016, 16:02
So there's the first problem with the report - if this aircraft was at 5000 or 4900 - it would be 2/3rds higher than normal.

Except that the report makes it clear that the aircraft in question wasn't on final approach.

It was on a base leg, not yet having turned right to intercept the 27L ILS, so the height quoted is perfectly normal for that phase.

17th Nov 2016, 16:24
Well Dave we might have another problem there because in the two years I've been watching from here I've never seen any aircraft turning right when over the Shard for Heathrow. You can see aircraft travel north probably for Stanstead transit London at a similar height and of course much lower for London City to the east but everyone else joins from the south and west well over Tulse Hill and make lefthand turns over Crystal Palace.

17th Nov 2016, 18:20
I see birds everyday from my front left seat, I can usually identify them as gulls, geese, hawks etc.
I also own some "drones" and am confident I could identify them too, fixed wing, multi- quad etc.
I have seen RC planes zooming around low around their RC field from thousands of feet above.
Why is so hard to believe a professional pilot will not be able to ID a runaway DJI phantom passing by?

17th Nov 2016, 18:38
Some more details:

Aircraft involved was BA A321 G-MEDU, operating BA777 (BAW77C) from Stockholm/Arlanda (ESSA). Inbound via Lambourne, twice round the hold there and then vectored as normal for a 27L approach. Airprox classed as Category A ("Risk of Collision: aircraft proximity in which serious risk of collision has existed")


BA777 20160718 Flightpath from Heathrow WebTrak (http://myneighbourhood.bksv.com/lhr/home/webtrak/15918682)

UK Airprox Board Report 2016139 (https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/Standard_content/Airprox_report_files/2016/New_assessed_reports/Airprox%20Report%202016139.pdf)

17th Nov 2016, 23:20
It happened in July. On a previous thread about drones I was roundly abused for suggesting it is only a matter of time before the holes line up.

I haven't changed my mind.

I haven't, either. If they haven't proved deadly dangerous yet, it's only a matter of time.

I'm currently living in north Dover, DE, about seven or eight miles from DAFB and about five miles from the nearest muni field.

I'm in a subdivision which is located in a semi-rural areal, and in the last eight months, I've been pestered by these little flying cameras in my own back yard.

I've taken to blinding them with a good handheld spotlight, which seems to get the operators to reverse or turn on a different heading.

But, they're out there, and if they're flying around here where there is literally nothing to look at, the same inconsiderate pieces of trash are probably flying them in visually richer areas.

Pilot or pax, if you're intent on calling all of these encounters "birds," you're just putting off realizing and dealing with the same kind of sh*tstorm powerful, cheap, handheld lasers created.

17th Nov 2016, 23:36
How high do drones fly? Isn't 4,900ft a bit high for them?

18th Nov 2016, 00:30
Lots of drone footage from Mt. Everest Base Camp (17,600ft) on YouTube...

Mid-size consumer drones can easily fly above 10,000 ft, unless restricted in firmware, with a suitable radio controller.

18th Nov 2016, 07:18
By the time they are over the said large pointy building - I have it on pretty good authority - they are around 3000ft and report that to ATC. So there's the first problem with the report - if this aircraft was at 5000 or 4900 - it would be 2/3rds higher than normal.

Aircraft over that part of London are considerably higher than 3000 feet these days. With Continuous Descent Approaches and being over 13 nm from touchdown they are at least 4000 feet (if not more).

ATC Watcher
18th Nov 2016, 07:31
How high do drones fly?
Modified or in "error" mode : as high as the battery will take them.

An anecdote heard during a recent UAS symposium : F/O of well known European airline buys a high end drone for around 1000 USD in Bangkok.
He wants to try it near hotel pool before taking it home. The thing shoots up vertically and is unresponsive to the ( possibly incorrect) iPad commands. It climbs until out of sight ...stuck it its vertical climb mode. Never to be seen again ..

And yes, it is only a matter of time unfortunately...

18th Nov 2016, 08:22
Details of the other drone incidents referred to by FlightGlobal on the two preceding days, both involving BA aircraft on Biggin arrivals for 27L:

The first was BA A320 G-EUUE operating BA547 (BAW8CF) from Rome (LIRF) over Greenwich at 1850Z on Saturday July 16th, Airprox Category: A

BA547 Flightpath from Heathrow WebTrak (http://myneighbourhood.bksv.com/lhr/home/webtrak/15828532)
UK Airprox Board Report 2016142 (https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/Standard_content/Airprox_report_files/2016/New_assessed_reports/Airprox%20Report%202016142.pdf)

The second was BA A319 G-EUPS operating BA531 (BAW531) from Split (LDSP) over Isleworth at 1736Z on Sunday July 17th, Airprox Category: B ("Safety not assured: aircraft proximity in which the safety of the aircraft may have been compromised")

BA531 Flightpath from Heathrow WebTrak (http://myneighbourhood.bksv.com/lhr/home/webtrak/15880899)
UK Airprox Board Report 2016137 (https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/Standard_content/Airprox_report_files/2016/New_assessed_reports/Airprox%20Report%202016137.pdf)

19th Nov 2016, 00:41
if there really was a remote flying machine at the same height - the operator has some flipping good eyes.

These days lots of drones have real-time "first person view" camera feed with digital information overlay, making it easy to fly them arbitrarily high / far away:

(Picture from DL Engineering)

19th Nov 2016, 08:02
Getting back on topic, some scary stats from the UKAB.

Of the 133 Airprox reports published so far this year (up to mid-July), 40 involved encounters with drones and of those, 32 were reported by aircraft performing scheduled passenger flights.

That's more than one a week on average ...

20th Nov 2016, 07:23
Time to buy a [email protected] to annoy the drone(s)? ;)

24th Nov 2016, 15:16
This problem can be solved with straight forward implementation of sensible tech.


Won't stop the malicious, but given these things already need to carry the necessary comms and nav, the cell network and associated tech is the obvious and ideal tool. Might help sort out the larger chaps too.

9th Dec 2016, 14:20
Another incident, potentially serious?

Football-sized drone flown 20m from Heathrow-bound plane - BBC News (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-38264696)

9th Dec 2016, 15:48
Not another per se, this one happened in August. The report says this one was encountered at 11,000ft. Isn't that stretching things a bit for the radio downlink?

9th Dec 2016, 15:56
The video may be recorded on board. The uplink is more important, but quite feasible over an unobstructed path depending on the system used and ground antenna gain.

9th Dec 2016, 16:15
Not another per se, this one happened in August. The report says this one was encountered at 11,000ft.

Swiss A320 HB-JLT operating LX338 (SWR26H) from Zurich (LSZH) at FL115 turning outbound in the Biggin hold, 1805Z on Thursday August 4th, Airprox Category: A

LX328 Flightpath from Heathrow WebTrak (http://myneighbourhood.bksv.com/lhr/home/webtrak/16748688)
UK Airprox Board Report 2016161 (https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/Standard_content/Airprox_report_files/2016/New_assessed_reports/Airprox%20Report%202016161.pdf)

9th Dec 2016, 16:39
"The plane was flying at 11,000ft when the drone was spotted passing the right wing "very quickly" by the first officer on 4 August."

11,000ft? Coincidence?..

Drone Breaks Record (And the Law) By Flying to 11,000 Feet (http://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/drones/a19854/drone-flown-11000-feet/)

A European drone hobbyist has apparently flown a DJI Phantom 2 to a record 11,000 feet up. It takes about three-and-a-half minutes to reach that altitude, and once the drone gets up there, the operator has to race the aircraft back to the surface before the remaining 27% of battery life runs out, making it just in time with 4% left, according to the video.

This is almost certainly the record for the highest anyone has flown a commercial drone.

9th Dec 2016, 17:40
Fake news is much more interesting than boring old reality, and riles up the masses into grabbing their pitch-forks and torches and taking action. Poking their own eyes out with the pitch-forks sometimes, at the political level.

The drone that climbed to 11,000 ft. cost the owner well over $1000 (see amazon.com, e.g.) so he likely wanted it back. As the article pointed out he landed very low on fuel. Anecdotally, these things become incipient scrap if the propellers stop turning at some height. So your chances of encountering one near that altitude are zip.

Without spending all the energy climbing, drones like this one advertise 25 minutes' duration. Buyers typically complain that they only get 15 minutes at legal altitudes, but that may be to the 'return to base' warning. I don't know how much of that 15 minutes would be consumed by a climb to 3,000 or 5,000 ft.

The company mentioned has something of a reputation of its drones going rogue, disappearing out of sight and out of control despite the owner having acted responsibly (self-reported, of course). That might suggest a need for stronger incentives for the manufacturer to design so that can't happen.

Meanwhile, how real is the danger to large aircraft? [That's a question, not my opinion that they're not a danger]. They're neither pizzas nor frozen turkeys but (presumably, I have no knowledge) four quite small electric motors each driving a (certainly, from anecdotes) very fragile plastic prop; a battery that seems fairly substantial (from pictures of the spares on offer) but probably under 1kg (easy to check), some very light and small electronics, and just enough structure to hold it all together. Plus a camera and gimbal assembly, I'd imagine Go-pro-ish.

So what happens when you do encounter a frozen pizza in cruise? Less likely since airlines have cut back on catering and frown on pax throwing stuff overboard in any case, but once in a while an airplane sheds parts - engine or other - unplanned. Boeing/Airbus/FAA et al might have studied the problem and perhaps someone with that knowledge might offer it up. Might be a crisis that merits "a war on...", might be as uninteresting (from an aversion-planning pov) as two engines failing mid-Atlantic.

India Four Two
9th Dec 2016, 20:17
11,000ft? Coincidence?..

Yes. The drone in the video was flown from Hellevoetsluis in Holland.

9th Dec 2016, 20:56
Time to start firing a few representative drones through some jet engines, along with the water, ice, and bird ingestion tests. My money is on geese still doing the most damage.

10th Dec 2016, 05:56
If an airliner were to hit a drone and sustain "Minor cosmetic damage", the costs could be quite high.
Lets say it hit the leading edge of a wing.
The aircraft would require inspection to assess the damage. If it was a dent more than about 1mm deep or a scratch then NDT testing would be required to ensure there was no crack. This could take several hours, so loss of service for the airline.
If the dent was more significant then a leading edge change may be required taking a lot more time.
The cost in insurance terms could easily be $100,000 to $500,000.
If it involved an engine then we are talking several millions.
So when this happens, who is going to pay?

10th Dec 2016, 07:49
Sallyann: The reason I mentioned the downlink is that if this fails, the operator won't get the data from the drone relating to speed, altitude, heading etc. The video bit is irrelevant.

10th Dec 2016, 09:33
You are correct. But with the limited flight time of these devices they are restricted to a quick up and down from extreme height with no opportunity for further navigation or flight data. After the loss of either up or downlink control the internal GPS will control a return to the base coordinates.
The Dutch example shows simply downward camera shots.

10th Dec 2016, 11:18

Liz Truss has the answer, this advice could be used for aviation!

Is there any wonder we're having problems

10th Dec 2016, 11:59
The point I was trying to (poorly) make was I don't believe the drones are nearly as much as a threat to life if you will as the media loves to say they are. It is still going to be an inconvenience and potentially very pricey.. just not fatal.

Ok that's your opinion but you can't say there's no risk of a fatality until either someone is prepared to sacrifice an engine and perhaps a windscreen to do lab tests or we start gathering real world evidence from drone strikes on critical portions of an airframe.

10th Dec 2016, 16:00
Lets take a Phantom 4 'drone' or UAV. (or even call it a remote piloted aircraft RPA). The battery life is approximately 25 minutes give or take, depending on weather/wind, and battery conditions. The DJI RPA's have what is called 'Return to home' which will return it to the take-off point or 'home point location' if signal is lost (ie transmitter fails, connection is lost with the controller or the battery reaches a pre-set level). The RPA weighs in the region of 1.3kg, being generally plastic in nature except for the battery and the very small electric motors.
To climb to 11'000 feet is perfectly achievable. The problem is it quickly becomes invisible to the naked eye. The operator certainly cant fly a 30mph RPA at or toward an airliner as a) they'd need to have superpowers of sight (even with a 'first person view' system utilised)
b) there is no way at that distance it could be flown 'at' an airliner doing what? 200mph? It would be a stroke of luck to get close to one unless you went out with the intent of only flying where you knew aircraft were going to be, within your time scale of battery life, and even then its a big old sky up there. How two pilots in an airliner, preparing for a descent etc, are looking out of the window at that exact point, running through checklists, frequency changes, and generally just doing what pilots do, i'm amazed they even see anything outside, unless of course airline pilots spend their entire flight looking out of the cockpit windows???
Remember we are talking about a very small 'drone' (I hate that name) and it will be virtually standing still at that level or at the very least being blown off course due to the fact it cant do more than 40mph in sport mode. (arent the wnds aloft higher than that? )
I fly professionally and tend to be low level most of the time <3000' and relatively slow, and have never seen an RPA in flight yet. Oh and I have an RPA permit from the UK CAA, so I believe I do talk with some sense regarding the subject.

So far, there has been no reported instance of a drone definitely hitting an aircraft. Reports yes, proof no. Now since 1990 there have been nearly 200 plane-turtle strikes. (ok thats in the USA) but even so, there are probably more aircraft over there ( and obviously more kamikaze turtles).

As a responsible RPA operator and professional pilot, I honestly believe this whole thing is being slightly over-hyped. As I said above, the winds alone would mean the RPA would be struggling unless at 11000' the wind was less than 40mph? Not likely. The drain on the battery would be exceptionally high just trying to maintain position, even if it were possible. I certainly don't condone the use of RPA's outside of the 'Drone Code' limits of 400' high and 500m, and generally, the educated in the drone community won't either. Unfortunately there will always be those who think its big and clever to see how far they can go. Whether its distance or height, and I know of distances of 8 miles being reached by a phantom 4, and also heights in excess of 3000'. 11000' might be pushing it.

In future, when a drone is reported as being 'flown' in the vicinity of an airliner, check the winds at that height, if its more than about 25-35kts, the RPA is very unlikely to be under anyones control, (it just isnt possible to control it when the wind exceeds the RPA capability) and will be drifting downwind, albeit trying to fight its way back to where it should be, and in the process using batteries at max rate.

Oh and someone above mentioned gliders. I've had more near misses with them than anything else. !!!

10th Dec 2016, 17:00
In the unlikely event of engine ingestion. What effect would a battery have going through that sort of enviroment?

10th Dec 2016, 18:41
In the unlikely event of engine ingestion. What effect would a battery have going through that sort of enviroment?

Probably a bent blade or two and maybe a compressor stall. Chances are the engine would still produce power but vibration could be an issue.
Still going to be expensive.

11th Dec 2016, 08:49
Good discussion with a specialist here: What Might Happen If an Airliner Hit a Small Drone? - IEEE Spectrum (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/what-might-happen-if-airliner-hit-small-drone)

To summarise, the engine's power setting is the critical factor. At low power a drone could probably be ingested without much problem. Batteries are hard, but so is ice. There's a greater risk at high power, but drones tend not to fly in flocks so the risk of a Sully Sullenberger-type incident is almost nil.

ATC Watcher
11th Dec 2016, 10:04
Very interestng discissuion , Thanks Helimut and Oblivia , I learned something .

Now in the discussions we had in my area (ATC) some years ago , the biggest threat was identified in the "professional" UAVs in the 1,5 to 25 Kg category. Not the small " recreational " ones. There are 20+ Kg UAVs flying out there outside of many regulations.
One example given was that of the Spanish Electricity Provider ( REE) who utilizes UAVs to monitor their power lines. long before the Spanish authorities , and EASA, had published any rules on how to operate them.
A collision with those will put down an helicopter , a GA aircrfat or even a Canadair anti fire bomber operating at the same altitudes as those UAVs.
TV stations ( especially those reporting sports event) are also starting to use large UAVs, and mixing them with ( e.g police or from other TV stations ) helicopters was also identified as a serious issue.

11th Dec 2016, 11:40
Good discussion with a specialist here: What Might Happen If an Airliner Hit a Small Drone? - IEEE Spectrum (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/what-might-happen-if-airliner-hit-small-drone)

To summarise, the engine's power setting is the critical factor. At low power a drone could probably be ingested without much problem. Batteries are hard, but so is ice. There's a greater risk at high power, but drones tend not to fly in flocks so the risk of a Sully Sullenberger-type incident is almost nil.

Hmmm. Misleading title:

What Might Happen If an Airliner Hit a Small Drone?Ten paragraphs discussing the effect of an engine ingesting a drone and then a throwaway comment at the end:

Id be more concerned about [a drone] hitting the windscreenMe too.

12th Dec 2016, 10:07
CAA propose to increase fees for UAV permit issue by 128% :*:*

(to improve service? this I have to see)

12th Dec 2016, 21:56
Lets take a Phantom 4 'drone' or UAV.

To climb to 11'000 feet is perfectly achievable.
I own and fly a P4 as a hobby in Colorado US.

11K feet is not possible unless you started out at ~9,400 ft above sea level. Obviously doable where I live but not in the UK for example. Out of the box DGI sets AGL (above ground level) at 120 M (~400 feet the limit for recreational UAW use in the US and UK). It simply won't let you fly higher. You can set the AGL limit to 500M (~1,600 ft) which is valid for flying up a mountain while maintaining 400 ft AGL. Sure that also means you can fly to 1,600 AGL anywhere and break the rules/law but that's it, they won't go higher than 1,600 feet from take off point. I leave mine at 120M unless I'm in the hills.

I have read 100s of forum/redit/twiter/facebook posts from folks asking how to hack the 500M limit and it's simple not possible, no one has managed to hack the firmware since these were introduced (March 2016). There was a bug in the Phantom 3s (fixed years ago), you could fly to 500M, reset the home point and fly up another 500M, rinse and repeat.

The home point coords for RTH are set via the internal GPS but the AGL is monitored by barometer only. Personally I think the AGL limit is hardware set in the barometer but I'm not sure 100% and DGI keep this info provate.

Anyhow most drone owners are responsible granted some are not or ignorant. P4s were about $1500 and just dropped in price to $1100, the new P4Pro is about $1500, in 6 months time the P5 will cost about $1500 and the P4Pro will drop. You get the picture, crashing your new $1,500 toy is no fun and difficult to explain to the wife unit ;)

13th Dec 2016, 15:32
A little more phantom info. First remember that Phantoms are flying cameras capable of 4K HD video and 12mb stills, most of us are into photograph more than flying. The flight software in a prosumer drone like my P4 is basically similar to modern airliners in a way. I can fly in 3 ways.

1). P mode. This mode is computer controlled via GPS and sensors, you are 'flying' but the software takes care most of the adjustments for you. If you hover in place at 100ft AGL it will stay in place, the software is compensating for wind etc. Fly it 400 feet forward and it will travel in a straight line compensating for wind etc. Many nights I send mine up to 300 feet and hover in place for 20 mins trying to get a decent sunset shot. You can crash but you almost have to do it on purpose. Obviously the automation can fail, single loss etc. can occur and that's where the build in failsafe comes to play. They try to go home or land depending on battery life, horizontal obstacle and ground avoidance sensors etc.

2). A or S modes. No GPS/computer control. A gust of wind will take it into a tree, you have to fly it manually. Not great if you are trying to take video or photos. I can fly mine manually but only learnt to do so in case of automation failure, well and it's fun if you in the mood. Kind of like you guys argue about manually flying jets to keep up your skill level.

3). Full on Auto pilot. Pre programed waypoint 'missions', follow me mode, point of interest mode, click to fly and other 100% automated flights. Again, these modes are designed for photography and have all the failsafe features built in.

As far as distance. Urban I could get about a mile range but personally I don't like flying that far for obvious reasons. Ideal conditions like over water or up in the mountains I regularly fly 3 miles out and then back. It's safe, remote, not much to hit and worst case my toy is lost. I'm at or under 400ft AGL.

No fly zones. Modern prosumer drones now have databases for airports, national parks, Trump Tower just got added as a matter of fact. They will not let you take off or fly into a NFZ. If you try they will stop and hover.

The cheap sub $200 toy drones don't have all this software but those things are so light and flimsy you spend most of your time trying to get them out of trees.

Hope this helps a bit and also remember us drone guys are also hapless SLF in your world, typically with their drone in the overhead actually LOL..

14th Dec 2016, 11:00
Offering George Carlins view on the expression "near miss".