A drone came dangerously close to a United jetliner scheduled to land at Newark Liberty International Airport. However, the aircraft landed without incident, following an air traffic control alert about the drone.
Several other pilots also reported seeing the white drone flying about two miles out from the airport at 850ft in the air, according to a video released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The United Airlines flight 135, a Boeing B767-400 was flying in from Switzerland.
A recorded conversation between ATC and the pilot shows that the aircraft was on its final descent, flying at 850ft. The pilot called it a "near miss".
FAA's safety guidelines for drones say that flying should be done at a height of 400ft, never near airports, and that drone pilots must understand airspace restrictions.
"Preliminary information shows that United Flight 135, a Boeing 767, reported a near mid-air collision with a white unmanned aircraft approximately two miles southwest of Newark," said an FAA spokesman to Business Insider, "The FAA notified the New Jersey State Police".
According to the FAA, drones are classified as unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and are strictly regulated. As a general rule, drones of any size and specification are not allowed within a 5m radius around an airport "without prior notification to airport and air traffic control".
The rules also state that UAS must always give the right of way to manned aircraft, and the drone must be within the line of sight of the pilot at all times.
In the EU, regulations are similar, but height restrictions are more stringent.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) has a fixed height restriction of 150m. In July this year, the Easa proposed a "regulatory framework for the operation of drones". If passed, this Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) would bring all UAS that weigh and have a "Maximum Take off Mass" of 25kg under it.
The regulation would, according to the NPA released, amend three important pointers — maximum height of operation, operations in visual line of sight, and geofencing functionalities for certain classes of drones.
Incidents of drones entering protected airport airspace have become more common.
As the Easa's NPA points out, "the development of small unmanned aircraft (UA) with an MTOM of less than 25kg has been extremely fast and has challenged traditional aviation".
In July, a drone flying too close to Gatwick airport caused a runway to be shut down twice on the same day. Five flights were diverted because the runway was shut down for five and nine minutes on separate incidents on the same day.
In the UK, drones are allowed to fly up to 400m, but should not be more than 50m near any person or thing, according to the report. The UK Airprox board reports that until June, there have been 46 incidents in airports caused by drones.
The Civil Aviation Authority issued a statement that said, "It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports," and that "anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment".