ChatGPT's New Skills Resident Evil 4 Remake Galaxy A54 5G Hands-On TikTok CEO Testifies Huawei's New Folding Phone How to Use Google's AI Chatbot Airlines and Family Seating Weigh Yourself Accurately
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

Drone near-miss with commercial flight given highest risk rating

Commentary: UK authorities say that a drone passed a mere 20 feet over an Airbus 319 during takeoff.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

White drone flying high in the air, these unmanned aerial

Are they a danger? If so, how much of a danger?

Roberto Machado Noa/Getty

It's a fear many pilots carry with them every day.

At some point, their plane may collide with a drone that's being flown by someone who thinks they're just having fun.

According to a report from UK Airprox Board, the country's air safety agency, a drone came extremely close to an Airbus 319 that was taking off from Heathrow Airport on Jan. 7. So much so that the board gave the incident its highest-risk rating.

The report says the Airbus was at 4,800 ft. when "a medium-sized, white drone passed directly overhead, with an estimated separation of 20 ft."

The board says the pilot had no time to take any corrective action. It didn't identify the airline, saying only that it was a commercial flight.

The UK's Metro reported the plane had 160 passengers on board. 

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority has distinct regulations with respect to where drones can legally fly. 

It insists, for example, that drones should be in the sightline of operators at all times, "so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft." 

That seems prudent. 

It adds that drones weighing more than 7 kg. (around 15.4 lbs.) shouldn't fly above 400 ft.

Neither the UK Airprox Board nor the Civil Aviation Authority immediately responded to a request for comment.

Heathrow has seen reports of drones actually striking planes, as has Canada's Lesage International Airport in Québec City. 

In such cases, however, neither the drones nor their operators seem to have been located.

Some pilots don't believe drones are such a problem. Airline captain Chris Manno, for example, says they're no more dangerous than bird strikes.

You can, though, understand the cautious approach of authorities. Drones are still a relatively new phenomenon in the sky. They are proliferating at some speed. 

Anything could happen. So why do these so-called enthusiasts insist on flying them near airports? In some cases, because they get spectacular footage.

But, please, don't do it.

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.