Categories: InnovationResearch

‘Drone’ Hits British Airways Jet On Heathrow Approach

A ‘drone‘ collided with an A320 passenger jet that was on final approach to London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday, an incident that is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The British Airways flight from Geneva was carrying 132 passengers and five crew, and was hit just before landing at around 12:50 BST. On landing, the captain of the A320 reported that an object, which was believed to be a drone, hit the front of the aircraft.

After inspection from ground crew, the aircraft was cleared to resume normal service

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


Heathrow’s aviation police have launched an investigation alongside the Metropoliton Police and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). No arrests have yet been made.

In a statement, the CAA said: “The CAA is aware of a possible incident with a drone at Heathrow on Sunday 17 April which is subject to investigation by the Metropolitan Police. Safety is our first priority.

“Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe. It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.”

In the UK it is illegal to fly a drone in the vicinity of an airport, as well as fly drones “beyond the direct unaided line of sight”. Flights near crowds of people and near buildings are also prohibited. Sunday’s incidents likely contravened all of these laws.

Read More: Can you fly drones in London?

“Drone users have to understand that when taking to the skies they are potentially flying close to 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 and light aircraft,” said the CAA.

There have been a number of incidents surrounding drones and airports in the UK over the last year. Last November, a pilot of an A321 passenger jet approaching Gatwick airport had a close call with a drone flying at 100ft above one of the airport’s runways. Last September, pilots of an A319 aircraft reported a drone passing within 30ft of the cockpit whilst on approach to Heathrow.

An investigation is ongoing into Sunday’s incident.

The collision comes as aviation industry bodies call for tougher regulations on civilian drone use. But tighter regulations, such as having an official register of drone pilots, could damage commercial plans for drone use. One company planning to use drones is which claims it wants to use drones for deliveries.

Amazon is hoping to get its ‘Prime Air’ drones into public use within the next few years following the completion of a thorough testing period, which will see how the drones cope with a range of delivery challenges.

James Stamp, global head of aviation at KPMG said the the ‘drone’ incidents highlights the need for more regulations.

“People who fly drones in controlled airspace are potentially putting lives in danger, and should be subject to the strongest possible sanctions available under the law,” he said.

“A number of practical steps should be taken, including requiring drones to be registered, tougher penalties for irresponsible behaviour, and technology based solutions that will prevent the drones entering restricted airspace in the first place. More research is also required into the potential impact of collisions because, while the impact of bird-strikes has been well researched, the impact of drone impacts is less well understood.”

Take our London & Technology quiz here!

Ben Sullivan

Ben covers web and technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and their impact on the cloud computing industry, whilst also writing about data centre players and their increasing importance in Europe. He also covers future technologies such as drones, aerospace, science, and the effect of technology on the environment.

View Comments

  • So far they only think it was a drone - lots of other possibilities from bits falling off another aircraft to a bird strike. If it was a drone then in away its at least shows that the danger from drones is perhaps less catastrophic, but probably depends on drone size and where the impact is.

    New laws aren't required, it just needs enforcement of the current rules which are enough to keep everyone safe. The big problem is the idiots and those with evil intent who don't obey the rules - and that's where the big problem is!

Recent Posts

AT&T Admits Data Breach Impacted “Nearly All” Customers

American telecommunications giant AT&T admits that “nearly all” customer accounts were compromised in 2022 breach

10 hours ago

Elon Musk’s X Breached DSA Rules, EU Finds

X's Blue checks 'used to mean trustworthy sources of information. Now our preliminary view is…

13 hours ago

Japan’s SoftBank Acquires AI Chip Start-up Graphcore

SoftBank Group has purchased another British chip firm, with the acquisition of Bristol-based Graphcore Ltd…

15 hours ago

Samsung AI-Upgraded Bixby Voice Assistant Coming This Year

Samsung reportedly confirms it will launch the upgraded voice assistant Bixby this year, that will…

1 day ago

Next Neuralink Brain Implant Coming Soon, Says Musk

Despite an issue with first Neuralink implant in a patient, Elon Musk says second brain…

1 day ago

EU Accepts Apple’s Legal Commitments To Open NFC Access

Legal commitment over Apple's NFC-based mobile payments system, which is to be opened to rival…

1 day ago