back to article Height of stupidity: Heathrow airliner buzzed by drone at 7,000ft

An airliner circling Heathrow narrowly missed colliding with a drone flying at 7,000 feet – while another aircraft approaching the London airport saw a drone hurtle past just 30 feet from its cockpit. The first near miss took place in mid-May when an Airbus A319 pilot flying to Heathrow saw a one metre-long drone, painted …

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Interesting to know, but I'm pretty sure that a collision at 200 knots will be only slightly less horrific than one at 300 knots.

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Pint

> ...only slightly less horrific...

If the energy is important then the factor is 1.5^2 = 2.25, so you "slightly" is actually "more than twice the energy". I am not normally pedantic but this misconception bugs me a bit too often (usually with car drivers).

Beer to make up for pedantry.

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Linux

Given that drones are small and slow moving, and commercial airliners are large and comparatively fast. I am surprised anyone in the plane could spot one, let alone accurately assess its size given the lack of comparative cues that might indicate scale.

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April 1st?

A speck that's visible for less than a second can be determined to be being flown with a particular mode of control? Really? These reports have zero credibility.

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Let's hope....

....that these morons flying where they should - regardless of what it is they are flying - DO post their ill-gotten gains to YouTube.

At least then the Police stand half a chance at getting the b******s.

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Re: Let's hope....

You mean the pilots of the civilian aircraft?

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IT Angle

"Stay away from aircrafts chip" mandatory on all drones

Make the drone manufacturers install by law a mechanism on the drones to stay away from airports and planes, it could be as simple as a RF signal emitted by the planes and airports, that the drone can catch and override the stupid drone's operator commands.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Stay away from aircrafts chip" mandatory on all drones

Make the drone manufacturers install by law a mechanism on the drones to stay away from airports and planes, it could be as simple as a RF signal emitted by the planes and airports, that the drone can catch and override the stupid drone's operator commands.

You're hoping that nobody can sneak gear past customs or cannot mod it once it's here. Not going to happen, sorry. A restriction based on tech isn't one for the same reason as there is no such thing as idiot-proof - both are undone by smarter idiots.

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Anonymous Coward

Did the pilots really see a drone

Is it possible that the pilot mistook a large bird for a drone, especially when passing the "drone" at high speed. A goose is more than capable of getting to 7000ft. I'm not saying that the pilot didn't see a drone, but until I see hard evidence (such as a dashboard cam video - or proof of a drone causing damage) I'm not going to get in a panic.

This reminds me of the time when it was not uncommon for sensible pilots to report seeing UFOs. Oddly now that there are more than a billon people with cameras on their phone, there still haven't been any credible pictures of a flying saucer.

Maybe the pilots are fooling themselves into seeing other things as drones.

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Re: Did the pilots really see a drone

One of them was green and purple, but at a metre long that would be one hell of a mallard rather than a goose.

Green and purple are the battle colours of the Zargian Planetary Domination Force so it was probably an alien scout craft, time to start digging bunkers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Did the pilots really see a drone

Not convinced that it wasn't a mallard. Judging the size of something with no nearby objects is not easy. If you've convinced yourself that the thing is a drone, making it 1m long is easy. BTW according to Wikipedia - List of birds by flight heights, mallards have been seen at 21000ft.

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Hmmm

Never any video or photographic proof, these stories always rely on what the pilot saw.

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Re: Hmmm

How come we don't have dash cams in planes these days?

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Question

Is the story a bigger load of crap than the comments being posted (I'm not sure)

No doubt this won't be approved, but look at the statements made before unwrapping the pitchforks and lighting the torches

The statements in the story smell of wee and I'm surprised that Saturdays episode of Causality wasn't mentioned as additional evidence.

Firstly there are idiots with ready to fly machines that's why the DJI Phantom is known as The Phantom Menace within the flying community but anything at 7000 feet wasn't one of them.

A twin bladed drone at 7000 feet, firstly that is called a helicopter or a plane in common parlance so No that's not something some moron bought in Maplin or online.

To me that smells one of the following : Commercial, Military or Police.

Commercial wouldn't risk their ability to make money and most commercial machines wouldn't stand a chance of getting that sort of altitude.

Military is possible, particularly if they probably forgot to set the home point and it was trying to fly back to the US or Israel (ask the Irish army about that one and the second one as well)

The Police are arrogant enough to fly anywhere they want and they have been spending a hell of a lot of money on UAV systems (see I know the lingo) but unlikely

5 years ago a pilot would have said UFO, a strangely common occurrence and probably made slightly less common by pilots being breathalyzed upon landing.

Any remotely operated vehicle is a drone (including your kids toy car) but as usual the Daily Fail would have you believe only drug smugglers, pedophiles, psychopaths and abortionists have such devil machines.but

As an aside one commenter who said model planes and helis require skill and multirotors don't, well tell you what try a 250 racer in acro mode and see what you make of it.

BTW stupidity is common everywhere I have had to call the cops about people flying both fixed wing models and kites less than 200 feet from the end of a UK airport, no doubt the story would have become satanic drone pilots as the other story would only have involved really stupid normal people

BTW a LiPo fire in your pocket, car or ear would be an unpleasant experience, however the energy carried and heat generated is probably a gnats fart compared with the untold millions of Jules and hundreds of degrees C the jet engine is producing.

No it wouldn't be good to bung anything into a jet engine, but a consumer grade machine is a plastic shell, (perhaps some glass bubble impregnated nylon), 4 small PCBs, a credit card sized computer, a few small motors and a soft(ish) battery pack.

Not a good thing to be ingested, but I would be a damn sight more worried about the damage a flock of geese or seagulls would do.

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Re: Question

only drug smugglers, pedophiles, psychopaths and abortionists

You forgot Muslims (it used to be Pakis when I was a kid), or do they get automagically included with psychopaths? You also forgot the spooks, who if caught will claim to have been investigating the feasibility of unnamed foreign powers (The Evil Empire) to disable our aircraft.

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Casualty

The statements in the story smell of wee and I'm surprised that Saturdays episode of Causality wasn't mentioned as additional evidence.

Comically the makers of this programme had a small boy fly a toy quadcopter up into a large hovering helicopter despite the rotor downwash that would have splatted the drone into the ground before it got within 10 metres.

Some of these implausible drone encounter reports (remember the previous one that was proved false) risk crying wolf. Another one recently had a quadcopter flying alongside a passenger aircraft. Despite the enormous speed differential, they hystericals all believe it of course.

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Mushroom

Theory A: Stupid people...

Theory A: Stupid people. The most common assumption.

Theory B: People intent on causing an impact. Call it 'terrorism' if you wish.

Theory A is obviously far more likely, but you'd think that such people would at least be concerned about the cost of the drone. You'd think they'd at least not get that close, due to the risk of losing their expensive drone due to the impact. This is how most stupid people would think.

Theory B is worth considering. ...Especially as how their aim is apparently improving.

Time for some bespoke Radio DF equipment. It's a technical challenge, but I doubt the baddies are using 2.4 GHz wifi over 7000+ feet. The signal has to stand out. DF should be do-able with some effort.

Good luck.

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Re: Theory A: Stupid people...

> The signal has to stand out. DF should be do-able with some effort.

Only if the particular frequency is known. Which of the several hundred signals of various frequencies will you focus on ?

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I thought they were supposed to be using a GPS database to prevent drones from being able to fly in any areas that were on the database - is that a US only thing or has it just not reached the UK yet?

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The vast majority of multorotors don't have any GPS capability.

The vast majority of fixed wing and helicopter models also don't have GPS either

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DJI devices have such a database tied to the GPS, and yes UK airports are in it. There is a however groups of "enthusiasts" who see it as getting in there way and did actively seek out lower software revisions without this database in it.

One problem with this approach is that the no fly zones can be huge. The FAA in the US changed the one around Washington DC airport from 15km to 30km (and then later returned it to 15km). That will affect a lot of law abiding hobbyist fliers who were flying responsibly but then found they had a expensive paperweight through no fault of their own..

For some zones there is the now the option (and you have to manually turn the option on each time) to allow the drone to fly within some of these zones. Remember there are legitimate commercial uses of drones, and some of the higher end DJI devices are aimed at professionals, who may well be filming with permission in what may be restricted space..

Clones or self built devices on the other hands are a different story, they may not have the software installed, have obsolete databases with no update mechanism, or the owner has deliberately removed such restrictions.

As I said before, the law abiding flier will find these tools and mode useful to help them stay within the law. The people who fly without regard to the laws will continue to do so.

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A plane at 7000 feet is not necessarily near an airport. At airports, planes are usually close to zero feet altitude.

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Ru'
Trollface

I love all the "think of the children" comments on these daily fail stories.

Cue the downvotes, I can take it...

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Anonymous Coward

I can smell BS at 7000ft

I am more concerned at the quality of eyesight tests for pilots than the chance of an actual consumer/hobby drone encounter at 7000ft. Let alone keeping up with a sufficient percentage of the aircraft speed to register as anything beyond an indistinct blur.

Anonymous because who wants to hear about drones not being dangerous.

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Re: I can smell BS at 7000ft

I'm not into RC aircraft, however just reading the article made me wonder what ones exist that can 'buzz' a commercial jet. I've seen some videos of jet/ducted fan RC planes, but would anything that could be described as 'twin rotor' be able to outpace a jet?

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Mushroom

Re: I can smell BS at 7000ft

would anything that could be described as 'twin rotor' be able to outpace a jet?

Not unless your "twin rotors" are actually rotary pumps feeding the RP-9 and LOX* into the combustion chamber.

* other rocket fuels are available

Obvious icon is obvious

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Twin rotor drones

from tfa: "a white, twin rotor drone"

Fro a brief look, there doesn't seem to be many two rotor drones, so I assume they're not as easy to build/fly as a quad. Do any companies actually sell twin rotor drones that can actually go up that high, or are we looking for an other plastic bag?

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why now?

When I was a kid people used to fly RC model aeroplanes all the time. They had 5cc petrol engines and I'm pretty sure they were bigger and heavier than modern drones. So why is it only a problem now?

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Unhappy

Re: why now?

Commercial pilots are trying to protect their turf and their jobs!

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Re: why now?

Why now? Probably because those things were expensive and also the population:asshole ratio was better than it is now.

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so why aren't the freedom fighters out there utilising this technology...?

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WTF?

Flying Liars? If Commercial Pilots Can Miss Seeing Small Passenger Aircraft, How Come ...

they can spot these even smaller flying objects?

I suggest some of these pilots suffer from more than extreme visual acuity, like wild imaginations.

I was a technician with the Met Office years ago attached to one of their busier weather balloon launch sites. The radiosonde and battery weighed a pound (lb) or two and the balloons were a creamy white.

No pilot ever complained about these aerial objects and they flew tens of thousands of feet in height.

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Reminds me of the ranting on here...

about mobile phones on planes. The usual doommongers crawled out of their holes to explain how interference would cause a plane to crash. Well it didn't happen and now it is encouraged :)

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Re: Reminds me of the ranting on here...

Y'know what I'd like to see?

A film that shows just one day in the life of a world where all those "don't do this because it will cause $BAD_THINGS to happen!" regulations/rules which were put in place for no reason came to pass.

You know, things like...

No using cell phones in hospital,

No using cell phones on planes,

No using cell phones at the petrol pump,

etc.

Just, the kind of absolute carnage that would ensue if that kind of shit was real. Then utterly mock everyone who made those kinds of things.

Y'know what I find most hilarious, is when old signage is just left in place, leading to signs depicting flip phones with big red, diagonally-crossed No circles around them, right next to the ones proudly proclaiming the free WiFi and depicting a smartphone.

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Meh

Show us the video evidence

At 500 knots, I think even an experienced pilot would struggle to distinguish a drone from an errant Tesco carrier bag, unless the drone were flying in much the same direction at much the same speed (which seems unlikely).

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Drone heights

So just some links

http://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/drones/a19854/drone-flown-11000-feet/ (NB says probably only 6500 feet)

http://www.topdronesforsale.org/longest-flight-time-drones/

Says DJI Phantom 3 can reach 6000m

I believe some drones are also GPS controllable, which would negate issues with controller distance.

In fact the first link says probably software was disabled that is in place to prevent drones reaching these heights, also there's lots of kits for some real beasts if you have a nose at forums, so maybe it's not that impossible to find a drone up there. The limit on the phantom 3 for example seems to be with loss of lift at above 6000m,

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Mushroom

Etops

What if the plane is already down to one engine when it ingests some f*ckwad's prized toy?

Note: Drones and UAVs are cool. Flying them in restricted airspace is f*ckwad material of the highest order.

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Re: Etops

What if your car's already had a normal blowout at autobahn speeds when some fuckwit who decides to teach you a lesson shoots out another tire?

You might as well ask "what happens if people randomly show up for dinner and open the door you forgot to lock while you're cranking your hog in the living room."

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Re: We need:

Same thing applies.

Law abiding fliers will do so. The people who do this probably realised they are already breaking the laws they just won't bother.

And much of the cheap Chinese clones makers won't care as long as they can keep selling things

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Re: We need:

Yup the links above basically imply that these things are software limited on height because of things like FAA rules, its people disabling the software thats getting the heights from them.

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Re: We need:

> 1) Recall of *all* drones

Of course that will work because all shops insist on collecting valid and true residential addresses for all sales of everything.

> 2) Hardwired built-into-all-battery-packs failsafe altitude limit,

We are not going to worry about people who live on hills. We set the the altitude limit to 500 feet above sea level and if your area is higher than that* you had better put wheels on your drones because they won't be going up.

* or you are in a weather patten that is a 'low'**.

** If you don't know why that is then you shouldn't be commenting on things beyond your comprehension.

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Re: We need:

You FUCKING MORON, do you really think that any kind of software limitations is going to be hard to get around? And if you hardwire such nonsense into domestically-made batteries, I'm sure the battery manufacturers of countries WITHOUT such restrictions will be more than happy for the business you're pushing their way!

You might as well put Phalanx CIWS emplacements with hypersensitive radars configured for automated anti-drone activation at the site of all major airports. That makes about as much sense, and would actually be efficacious at the task of keeping the airports free of these wildly unsubstantiated mythical drones.

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Directed EMP pulse or radio jammer that will take care of it. But on the other side one does not want a drone falling from 7000 feet on someones head or property.

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Mushroom

And deploy chaff and flares!

But don't interfere with the Amazon drone bring me my purchases...

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Take off your eyeglasses, you!

“The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.”

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Not jammers or missiles but transponders.

I am a hobby flyer but these idiots put my activities at risk.

I would suggest that any drone capable of flying at 500ft or more must carry identifying id on board electronically embedded on the control electronics in the event that it crashes. But it should also have an onboard transponder so that it can be identified in the air. Any drone operator flying in a negligent manner is liable to severe penalties but it is far too easy for the operator to escape without discovery at the moment.

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