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Air France plane has very near miss with drone above Paris

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Photo: Liam McManus/AFP
08:06 CET+01:00
An Air France plane came within a few metres of hitting a drone as it was about to land at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, it emerged on Friday.

The incident occurred as the flight from Barcelona to Pairs Charles de Gaulle was beginning its descent towards the runway.

As the co-pilot began the usual landing procedures he noticed a drone in his field of vision. According to reports, he had to switch off the auto-pilot function and carry out a manual manoeuvre to avoid the drone.

The captain estimated that the drone came within five metres of the left wing of the plane during the February 19th flight.

The Airbus A320 plane landed without incident but an investigation was immediately launched by aviation authorities from France's BEA (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyse), who reported the incident on their website.

They have classed the incident as “serious” and described it as a “near collision”.

Their main concern is to find out how a drone came to be at a 1,500 altitude - when the law prohibits flights above 150 metres off the ground -  and was flying in prohibited no-fly zone around the airport.

Very few models of drones that can be bought on the open market are capable of flying at such a high altitude. Many also include software that prevents them from being flown in restricted areas.

While a passenger plane would be able to withstand any mid-air collision with a small drone, there would be serious complications if the object flew into one of the plane’s engines. The impact could be catastrophic, especially if it occurred over a built-up area.

The areas around airports are included in a list of sensitive sites where drone flights are forbidden. The list also includes nuclear power stations.

In November 2014 French authorities were left concerned after drones were detected flying over various French nuclear power stations.

As many as 16 fly-overs were reported.

Although no one was caught and the government admitted they had no idea who was behind the flights, experts believed it was the work of an environmental group seeking to highlight a lack of security around nuclear plants.

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And last year the alarm was raised again when drones were spotted flying at various landmarks across Paris, despite it being illegal.

Police were again unable to catch any of the operators of the night-time flights and it is unclear whether they were the work of pranksters, tourists or something more malicious.

Flying a drone without permission or in a restricted area in France can result in a fine of €75,000 and up to a year in prison.

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