An air ambulance helicopter came within yards of colliding with a drone over London as it flew a critically-ill patient to hospital. The remote-controlled craft hovered just below the chopper as it circled above the Royal London Hospital, a report has revealed.

The UK Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, rated the chance of a collision as the most severe ‘category A’ event.

Investigators said it was only by luck the drone did not strike the helicopter, which was only 500m above the ground.

The report concluded that a ‘definite risk of collision had existed’. A doctor standing on the helipad – above the 17th floor of the hospital in Whitechapel, East London – spotted the drone as he waited for the helicopter to land.

Describing events on May 29, the Airprox report revealed:

‘A drone came up to meet them whilst east of the Helipad and orbited with them for a quarter turn. It then departed towards the south-east. The drone appeared to be only a few metres below and slightly to the side of the right skid of the aircraft.’

The legal limit for drones to fly is 400m. Anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including up to five years in prison.

London’s Air Ambulance treats an average of five critically injured patients a day. Pilot Captain Neil Jeffers said:

‘When you see our red helicopter in the skies above London we are likely taking our medics to a critically injured person as fast as possible. Every second counts when we are on a mission and hazards like drones can cost us vital time. We urge everyone to be mindful when flying so that we can all safely operate in the skies.’

Pilots have reported fears of drones getting close to passenger jets and helicopters. There have been more than 400 incidents in the past five years.

Last February, an air ambulance came within 100 ft of two drones as it flew a patient to hospital. They were ‘under the right-hand side’ of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance as it flew at around 1,200ft. Their operators were not traced

Source: Daily Mail

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