Skip to main content

Remember the drone that hit a plane? Here’s what it really was

FAA drone test.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
There was understandable alarm in the U.K. earlier in the week when a drone reportedly hit a passenger plane coming in to land at London’s Heathrow airport.

But after examining Sunday’s events more closely, a government minister on Thursday speculated that rather than a drone, the object may have actually been a plastic bag.

While there’ve been hundreds of apparent near misses between planes and drones over the last couple of years, initial news reports regarding the recent Heathrow incident suggested an actual collision had taken place for the first time.

The aircraft, a British Airways Airbus A320 with 132 passengers on board, landed safely. The pilot had said that as the plane came in on its final approach, it hit what may have been a drone flying at an altitude of about 1,700 feet.

After a search on the ground failed to turn up any debris, government minister Robert Goodwill appeared keen to play down the incident, urging other officials not to overreact with calls for swift legislation to further tighten rules on drone use.

Goodwill told a government committee it wasn’t certain that a drone strike had taken place, adding that there’s “some speculation that it may have even been a plastic bag.”

The minister also said that “early reports of a dent in the front of the plane” appeared to be inaccurate as “no actual damage” was found during an inspection of the aircraft.

Of course, such incidents can happen in the blink of an eye, so it’s highly likely that a portion of near misses reported as drone related could in fact be other objects such as birds, balloons, or indeed plastic shopping bags floating about the sky on a gusty day.

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), like its U.S. counterpart, bans drone flights close to airports, and also near any aircraft regardless of where they’re flying.

Numerous incidents of near misses have been reported around the world as a few reckless hobbyists ignore the rules. Aviation officials fear that a drone hitting an engine, wing, or cockpit window could have disastrous consequences, and many are currently looking for possible solutions to ensure quadcopters and similar machines are kept well clear of airports.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
From pizza to transplant organs: What drones will be delivering in the 2020s
ups test drone deliveries cyphy partnership

From drone racing to drone photography, quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles rose to prominence in the 2010s. But in the decade to come they’re going to become an even bigger thing in the next 10 years. Case in point: Deliveries by drone.

Who should you be watching in this space? What kind of goodies can you expect to have flown to your front door sometime in the 2020s? Read on to find out everything you need about the fantastic future of freight.
Amazon Prime Air
Amazon Prime Air delivery drone Image used with permission by copyright holder

Read more
49,000 UAW workers are striking against GM. Here’s what you need to know
gm uaw auto workers strike detroit 2019 consumer impact

The relationship between General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) trade union reached a breaking point in September 2019 as the two sides failed to hammer out the terms of their next four-year contract. Nearly 50,000 workers in nine states went on strike at midnight on September 16, and the movement remains on-going as of October 8. It's allegedly affecting the production of the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette.

Here's what you need to know about the strike, and how it could potentially affect both you and your next car.
How did we get here?
General Motors is significantly reducing its global footprint to keep up with a rapidly changing industry. America's new car market remains one of the largest in the world, and it's healthy, but motorists are buying fewer sedans as they flock towards high-riding SUVs and crossovers. On a secondary but more lasting level, carmakers need to spend a tremendous amount of money developing more efficient models and autonomous technology to remain competitive on the global stage. General Motors has notably invested billions into its tech-oriented Cruise division. The company's far-reaching restructuring reflects the fact that the good ol' days of churning out V8-powered trucks for mammoth profits are over.

Read more
Austrian Airlines is flying a drone around its planes for a good reason
austrian airlines is flying a drone around its planes for good reason inspection

Austrian Airlines relies on innovative drone technology for aircraft inspections

Drones may be causing a headache for airports and airlines around the world, but one European carrier has found a way to embrace the technology for the good of its fleet.

Read more