A suspected drone collision with a British Airways (BA) Airbus 320 aircraft on Sunday is being investigated by UK police.
The arliner's pilot reported an object had struck the front of the aircraft at 1250 BST on its approach to the UK’s Heathrow Airport, on the outskirts of London.
The airliner was carrying 132 passengers on a flight from Geneva to the UK. Police are investigating the incident.
The hit – a near-miss in risk terms – did not result in damage to the aircraft (similar to that pictured below), which resumed flying after engineers checked out the plane.
Laurence Baxter, head of policy and research at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), said: "Yesterday’s incident involving the drone collision with the British Airways flight ended well with no damage or injury.
"However it highlights the need to address the issues surrounding drone use safety and how to prevent future collisions that might be far more serious."
The CII said it has published a paper setting out some of the risks and suggestions to reduce the threat posed by remotely piloted drone aircraft, increasingly popular among private individuals and commercially.
"There are growing numbers of drones but unfortunately relatively little progress in thinking about better safeguards, despite the fact that they could pose a threat to not just jet airliners but smaller aircraft and helicopters. Many experts consider it can only be a matter of time before a major accident occurs,” said Baxter.
The CII’s recommendations include:
· Exploring better detection technology. Sighting and evasion is perhaps the most difficult given that drones are so small, and in some cases evasion can be as dangerous as impact. Technology such as transponders would allow drones to be detected and tracked by air traffic control and airliner collision avoidance systems.
· Detailed testing to determine the risk of drones to other airspace users such as various sizes of aircraft. At the moment, surprising little is known of this, especially given the range of different sizes of drones that are coming onto the market.
· Geo-fencing to prevent drones from entering certain airspaces is feasible but as it stands there are gaps in making this work to benefit all airspace users.
· Registration might remove the highest risk drone users. Presently under consideration by ministers is the introduction of an online registration system, forcing owners to put their details on a database before they could fly a drone, and ensuring the drones are equipped with transponders and geo-fencing. They might help sensible owners understand the dangers posed by drones, but it may not help when owners wish to deliberately fly their drones near other aircraft.