A small drone hit a British Airways plane over the Heathrow Airport

Pierluigi Paganini April 18, 2016

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that a drone hits a British Airways plane while landing at the Heathrow Airport, and the number of incidents is increasing

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that a drone hits a British Airways plane while landing at the Heathrow Airport. The news is disconcerting and highlights the dangers related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The British Airways plane, an Airbus A320 with 132 passengers and five crew on board, was arriving from Geneva when at about 12:50 BST was hit by the drone while approaching the Heathrow Airport.

The local Aviation police launched an investigation, the pilot confirmed that an object, most likely a drone, hit the plane.

This is the first reported collision between a drone and a civil plane in the country.

“Our aircraft landed safely, was fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight.” states a British Airways spokesman.

hacking drones

While aircraft manufacturers have designed the planes to resist impact with birds, no tests have been conducted to analyze scenarios in which a drone hit an engine or the windscreen of the plane.

“A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman said it was “totally unacceptable” to fly drones close to airports, and anyone flouting the rules can face “severe penalties, including imprisonment”.” reported the BBC.

It is necessary a significant enforcement of existing rules to prevent similar incidents. The actual regulation prohibits flying a drone near an airport, the culprits can be punished with up to five years in jail.

The Dronecode actually requests:

  • Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don’t fly higher than 400 feet
  • Always keep your drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields
  • Use your common sense and fly safely; you could be prosecuted if you don’t.

Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown:

  • within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures
  • over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events 


In a post published on the Infosec Institute, I have described the “Privacy and Security Issues for the Usage of Civil Drones,” highlighting the urgency to introduce strict regulation that could prevent incidents.

The US recently introduced the registration for civil drones in order to trace them back to the legitimate owners in case of incidents.

The Department for Transport will publish a strategy for managing the drones this year.

The BBC reported that the UK Air Proximity Board said there have been a number of serious near-misses at UK airports involving drones. In January, the UK Air Proximity Board confirmed that drones were involved in four serious near misses at UK airports.

Below the list of incidents shared by the Board and published by the BBC.

  • 17 April 2016 – A British Airways plane approaching Heathrow is believed to have hit a drone while in midair
  • 28 November 2015 – The pilot of an A321 plane narrowly missed a drone hovering at 100ft above a runway at Gatwick Airport
  • 30 September 2015 – A small drone helicopter passed within 30ft of the cockpit of an A319 plane while on the approach to Heathrow
  • 22 September 2015 – A “quadcopter-type drone” missed the right-hand side of a B777 plane by about 25m while at 2,000ft after it left Heathrow Airport
  • 13 September 2015 – A silver drone with a “balloon-like” centre missed an E170 aircraft by about 20m, while the plane was approaching London City Airport over the Thames
  • 13 September 2015 – A drone flew over the top of a B737 aircraft while at 4,000ft, missing it by about 5m, shortly after it left Stansted
  • 27 August 2015 – A DO328 aircraft flew within 50ft of a drone while approaching Manchester Airport at 2,800ft

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – drone, British Airways plane)

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