A plane avoided a potentially fatal collision with a drone in Oxfordshire after spotting the craft as it came in to land, the authorities have revealed.

The pilot, who was flying alone in a light aircraft over the Oxfordshire countryside on 22 July, noticed the drone out of the corner of his eye as he was coming in to land at London Oxford airport, near Kidlington.

While initially he had thought the object was a bird, he soon realised it was a silver-bodied drone, which was flying at an altitude of between 850ft and 950ft north west of Bletchingdon.

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Both the drone’s reported altitude and proximity to the airport are potentially in breach of laws regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Commercial drones are limited to flying no higher than 400ft, and much of the area near the airport is covered by flight restriction zones that prohibit small unmanned aircraft like drones.

While most drones are designed with restrictions, including height limits and geo-fencing, which stop them from being able to fly into sensitive areas including airports, it is possible to hack these systems, giving the small unmanned aerial vehicles free reign to fly where their operators please.

Thames Valley Police are now appealing for information following the incident.

Investigating officer PC Mick Anderton said: “When the pilot landed the incident was logged as an event of endangering an aircraft and the police were informed.

“Thankfully no-one was injured, but if the drone had collided with the aircraft there could have been fatal consequences.”

In 2018 there were at least 117 close calls between drones and planes in the UK according to flight safety body Airprox – including 33 ‘class A’ incidents defined as “a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed”.

Meanwhile, potential sightings caused Gatwick airport, the nation’s second busiest air transport hub, to shut down for 33 hours last year – cancelling hundreds of flights and disrupting the plans of some 140,000 travellers.

And on 3 July East Midlands airport was shut down over another potential sighting.

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