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Pilot claims drone almost hit passenger aircraft

A report from the UK's Airprox Board says that the co-pilot of an AT72 flying near London had a near-miss with a quadcopter at its right wing.

A pilot says his plane narrowly avoided a quadcopter while landing. Tested/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

To those used to their skies being relatively blue and quiet, drones are something of a pox.

It seems, though, that pilots are especially concerned.

A report from the UK's Airprox Board, which examines all safety issues in UK airspace, says that the co-pilot of a passenger plane reported that a quadcopter almost collided with the AT72-500's right wing.

Report No. 2014073 (PDF) says that the plane was on its approach to Southend airport, to the east of London.

"The co-pilot formed the impression that the quadcopter had been flown deliberately close to the AT72 because he had seen it around 100m away as it approached from the right-hand side and made a turn to fly in the opposite direction to his aircraft, around 25m away and at the same level," says the report.

Though, the pilot's assessment was that the collision risk was high, the quadcopter's operator was never traced. The report, originally unearthed by the Daily Mail, says that two model aircraft flying clubs in the area were contacted, but to no avail.

The conversation between the pilot and air traffic control was recorded in the report:

AT72: Was not sure it was you know a helicopter it looks like it's a brand new thing that are flying around now on remote control.

ATC: Oh, a quadcopter type thing maybe.

AT72: Say again, sorry.

ATC: Perhaps something like a quadcopter, er, we've had a couple of those around here, er, been reported.

AT72: Yes, exactly that.

The incident occurred May 30. Radar monitoring couldn't confirm the drone's presence.

This isn't the first time a pilot has reported a near-miss with a drone. In May, the FAA said that a US Airways Bombardier CRJ2 pilot narrowly avoided a drone over Tallahassee airport in Florida.

Perhaps most troubling of all is the fact that, in the US incident, the co-pilot believed the drone was being deliberately aimed at his plane.

Is it merely a matter of time before an actual mid-air collision occurs?