An air ambulance flying back from a drone awareness course was just seconds from disaster as it almost hit a drone flying at three times the legal height.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew encountered the illegal drone flying at 1,300ft and said it was only the skill of the pilot that saved them from ‘unthinkable disaster’.
The ambulance is understood to have missed the drone by less than three metres as it returned to base at Nostell Air Support unit, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, last night.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew encountered the illegal drone flying at 1,300ft and said it was only the skill of the pilot that saved them from ‘unthinkable disaster’. A Yorkshire Air Ambulance is pictured above [File photo]
Police are currently investigating the incident which is said to have left the five crew members shaken.
Steve Waudby, Chief Pilot at Yorkshire Air Ambulance said: ‘We cannot stress enough the seriousness of what happened last night to the crew of HM98.
‘It was only due to the vigilance of our front seat paramedic spotting the drone, and the rapid reaction of our pilot that the crew avoided a direct collision.
‘It is estimated that they missed the drone by less than three metres in the end.
The ambulance is understood to have missed the drone by less than three metres as it returned to base at Nostell Air Support unit, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, last night. The drone operator has been urged to come forward [File photo]
‘The consequences don’t bear thinking about if a direct strike had occurred.. We’d be telling a very different story today if it had.’
He continued: ‘The most ironic thing about all of this is that we spent most of yesterday working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over at Nostell to help them create a new ‘Drone Awareness’ short film to help highlight the dangers & issues of operating drones, and to make users more aware of aircraft operators like us and the police.
‘Whether the operator is aware or not, they have put the lives of our crew in extreme danger. I would appeal to the operator to please come forward and identify themselves – we have a very clear description of what the drone looked like and it was very, very distinctive.’
A CAA spokesman said: ‘It is against the law to fly a drone above 400ft (120cm) or close to airports without permission and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including up to five years in prison.
‘Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations.’
How drones could tear up a plane or helicopter
Drones weighing as little as 400g can smash a helicopter windscreen, demonstrating how the devices pose a critical safety risk to aircraft.
One weighing 2kg could critically damage an airliner’s windscreen, according to research funded by the Department for Transport.
Scientists at the University of Dayton Research Institute flung a DJI Phantom 4 drone into the sky from a cannon to see what would happen when it collides with a Mooney M20 plane.
They worked to mimic a midair collision between a 2.1-lb drone and an airplane at a speed of 238mph.
They shot the drone into the air using a 2,800lb steel cannon with a 12-inch bore.
Within three hundredths of a second, the drone smashed into the plane’s wing.
While many might think the drone would be destroyed upon impact, it actually tore open the plane.
The fast-spinning propellars on the drone ended up tearing through the plane’s wing, which damaged its main spar. For comparison purposes, the researchers also fired a similarly weighted gel ‘bird’ into a different part of the wing to see what its impact would be.
University of Dayton captured the crash using a 10,000-frame-per-second camera. They hope to conduct additional tests using similar and larger drones on other aerospace structures, including windscreens and engines, to show just how catastrophic drone collisions can be.