A drone came within 20 metres (65ft) of hitting a jumbo jet as it flew into Heathrow Airport, it has been revealed.
Details of 18 near misses between the devices and aircraft in Britain’s skies have emerged following major disruption at Heathrow and Gatwick in recent weeks.
In one incident on 22 July, the pilot of an Airbus A380 spotted a “large commercial drone” pass along the right side of the aircraft at 3,400ft (1,036m).
The device – which came “within approximately 20m” of the plane – was being flown in a way which was “endangering other aircraft” and involved the highest risk of collision, the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) said.
Another serious near miss involved an Embraer 190 airliner as it came into land at Glasgow Airport on 7 September.
A “shiny white drone” was flown immediately above the plane at just 15-30m (50-100ft) away.
The UKAB concluded that a “definite risk of collision had existed”.
Meanwhile, a Boeing 737 nearly collided with a drone at 4,000ft (1,200m) as it prepared to to land at East Midlands airport on 19 September.
The plane’s first officer alerted the pilot that a drone had passed “immediately down the left-hand-side of the aircraft”, according to the UKAB report.
There was no impact “observed, felt or indicated” but the UKAB said a “definite risk of collision had existed”.
Details of all 18 incidents, which happened between July and October last year, are included in the UKAB’s monthly report.
In total, there were 120 near misses between drones and aircraft reported in the year to 4 December 2018, up 29% on the total of 93 in the whole of 2017.
Just six incidents were recorded in 2014.
Heathrow Airport has now deployed an anti-drone system after it was forced to ground departure flights following sightings of the devices earlier this month.
The AUDS (Anti-UAV Defence System) is able to detect, track and ground drones and has been designed to stop them being used for terrorist, espionage or other malicious activities.
Similar equipment has been pictured on the roof of Gatwick’s South Terminal after that airport was brought to a standstill in December following reports of illegal drone activity.
Drones will have to stay further away from airports under recently-announced government measures.
Airport exclusion zones will be extended from the current 1km to about 5km (three miles), with additional extensions at the end of runways.
Drone users can be fined or even jailed if they fly the gadgets within these zones.