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Drone crashes into landing passenger jet, reports say

Technically Incorrect: At London's Heathrow Airport, a plane is landing from Geneva when a drone reportedly smacks into it. From the front.

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


ba320.jpg

A Briitsh Airways 320, similar to the one that was reportedly struck.

FludusTV/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It was going to happen sometime.

The only question was when.

After reports of drones nearly missing planes kept rising, there had to come a report of one actually hitting.

As the BBC reports, a British Airways flight from Geneva to London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday was struck by what is believed to have been a drone.

The drone reportedly hit BA flight 727, an Airbus 320, from the front.

"Our aircraft landed safely, was fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight," a British Airways spokeswoman told me. "Safety and security are always our first priority and we will give the police every assistance with their investigation."

The Metropolitan Police didn't immediately reply to a request for comment. However, a Metropolitan Police spokesman told the Independent: "A pilot on an inbound flight into Heathrow Airport from Geneva reported to police that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft."

The Guardian reported that there have been 23 near-misses at UK airports between planes and drones in the April to October period last year. In the US, 650 near-misses were reported by pilots between January and early August last year.

The Federal Aviation Administration has rules that state you shouldn't fly a drone within five miles of an airport. In Britain, flying drones near an airport can lead to severe sanctions, including jail.

It seems, though, that some people might think they can flout such rules.

Not every pilot believes drone strikes are a real problem. For example, airline captain Chris Manno believes they're "much ado about nothing." He says there are hundreds of bird strikes reported, but very few lead to anything remotely significant.

Birds, though, cannot help flying where they do. Drone pilots surely know where they are, especially near an airport as busy as Heathrow. Shouldn't they be at least a little more responsible?

Because drones are a relatively new phenomenon, it's not clear how much damage they could do. Some worry that they could go through fuel tanks, smash windshields and cause considerable damage.

Perhaps the only way the danger will be made real is if something like that actually happened.

But the best way to prevent it is to keep drones away from flight paths.

Unless, that is, you believe in the Kentucky rules. There, at least one judge has ruled it entirely legitimate to shoot down drones.

Update, 8 a.m. PT April 18: Adds comment from British Airways.