Look alive, stateside drone pilots: the Federal Aviation Administration's initial set of operational rules for commercial UAV flights officially goes into effect today. Commercial drone pilots are also required to be at least 16 years old and will need to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test at a certified testing center before they can get their remote pilot certificate. Fully automated flights like the Amazon's planned delivery service or automated surveying devices are still not allowed. Drones are also now subject to strict height limits and prohibited from flying over people, but the FAA will allow for exceptions to any of these rules if the pilot has been granted an official waiver.
LONDON – A British Airways plane struck an object believed to be a drone on Sunday as it was coming in for landing at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, police said. "A pilot on an inbound flight into Heathrow Airport from Geneva reported to police that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft," a spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police said. "The flight landed at Heathrow Terminal Five safely. A drone then came within a few meters of an Airbus A319 landing at Heathrow only a few days later on Sept. 30.
Earlier this month, the airline pilots' union called for an investigation into the likely effects of a drone strike on an aircraft after a report by the UK Airprox Board found that there were 23 near-misses between drones and aircraft in the six months between April and October last year. Days later, a drone was flown within a few metres of an Airbus A319 landing at Heathrow. The pilot told the UK Airprox Board the drone may have been just 20 feet above and 25 yards to the left when it passed by the aircraft. Steve Landells, the flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said that data on bird strikes was not useful because "birds don't have a big lump of lithium battery in them".