RAF jet in near-miss with drone over skies of Suffolk
An RAF Tornado jet had a terrifying near-miss with a drone over the skies of Suffolk, a report has revealed.
The jet was travelling around 517mph at the time of the incident, missing the drone by just 22 metres (72ft) on July 4 this year.
According to a Civil Aviation Authority Airprox report, the Tornado pilot was flying in formation with two other aircraft, completing a low-level manoeuvre at an altitude of 121m (400 ft), 10 miles north-east of Wattisham.
The drone was being used to carry out an agricultural survey, hovering around 100 metres (328ft) above a field at around 9.30am, when a Tornado jet passed from behind at high speed.
The drone was put into “rapid descent”, narrowly avoiding a collision with the military aircraft.
In the Airprox report, the operator of the drone assessed the risk of collision as ‘high’.
The report said the drone pilot had been operating “entirely within regulations”, flying below 100m (400ft) and 10 miles from Wattisham, although it was noted he could “usefully have notified the Wattisham controller of his actions”.
The report reads: “Unlike civilian aircraft, for which mid-air collision was mitigated to a large extend by the 400ft maximum height rule for drones and the 500ft minimum height rule for aircraft, military low-flying brought fast-moving aircraft down to the same operating altitudes as drones.
“That, coupled with the lack of aural or visual warning available to drone pilots in order to take timely avoiding action, and the low probability of sighting a drone from a fast-moving aircraft resulted, in the board’s opinion, in a significant and largely unmitigated safety risk.”
“Turning to the incident itself, members agreed that the drone operator had sought to de-conflict his aircraft from the Tornado at the first available opportunity, but that the Tornado’s approach was so paid that he had little time to do so.”
The board concluded the situation had been “resolved by the drone operator” but that “safety had been much reduced below the norm”.
It recommended that HQ Air Command pursue the use of a notification system so that pilots flying in the UK Low Flying System are aware of commercial drones operating in the area.