UK police probe drone near-miss with commercial flight

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(CNN)Police in the UK have launched an investigation after a drone was involved in a near-miss with a passenger plane off the country's south west coast.

Police say 62 people were on board the flight which was approaching Newquay Airport when a drone was seen flying alongside it at about 900 feet, two miles from landing.
A spokesperson for the airport confirmed to CNN that the pilot of a Flybe service from London Stansted saw the drone on its final approach -- but said that there had been no danger of a collision.
    Neither the drone not the operator have been found despite an immediate police search of the area.
    "This is an incredibly concerning incident," the police said in a statement.
    "The close proximity of the drone to the passenger aircraft shows a complete disregard by the operator for public safety and we are appealing to the public for information to help us track down this reckless drone operator.
    "We view such incidents very seriously and the force's specialist drone unit will be leading on the investigating into this incident."
    The number of near misses with drones is increasing. In April, a British Airlines pilot said he thought a drone had hit his flight as it approached Heathrow Airport.
    Last year in the UK there was a quadrupling of near misses, according to the UK's air safety body, the Airprox Board. In June the board published details of six drone incidents in a six-week period between the end of March and the beginning of May.
    It is the same picture in the US The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there is evidence of a "considerable increase" in the unauthorized use of small, inexpensive Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), receiving more than 100 reports each month.
    "The agency wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes, helicopters and airports is dangerous and illegal," it says on is website.
    Some fear drones could cause a fatal crash by interfering with passenger flights.
    Writing for CNN in April, airline expert Geoffrey Thomas said: "It now seems inevitable that a tragic accident involving a commercial plane with hundreds aboard and a drone is only a matter of time.
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    "Numbers are disturbing ... they are only going to get worse as drone sales soar on the back of lower purchase costs and greater capability.
    "With air travel set to double over the next 20 years and drones sales climbing by 30% a year, tragic conflicts with reckless operators are inevitable," he said.
    In January this year, the US FAA and the Department of Homeland Security responded to the potential threat by testing a new technology called SkyTracker. It is designed to detect radio signals from drones operating within five miles of airports.
    "SkyTracker successfully identified, detected, and tracked (unmanned aircraft) in flight, and precisely located drone ground operators -- all without interfering with airport ground operations," the makers said in an FAA report.
    UK police officer Kane Fowler, who is a member of a police drone development unit, told CNN that incidents are not necessarily malicious but happen because operators are not aware of the risks involved.
    "It's very easy to get hold of a drone. People see it as a toy but it is a toy that can be dangerous," he said.
    PC Fowler explained that every drone sold in the UK comes with guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority which owners should read to avoid causing danger to others.