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A police probe is underway after a drone was reported to have struck a British Airways aircraft as it was landing at Heathrow.

The Metropolitan Police’s aviation security unit based at the airport will lead the investigation.

The BA Airbus A320 from Geneva, with 132 passengers and five crew on board, was hit as it approached Heathrow yesterday lunchtime.

The incoming flight, which is thought to have been flying at between 2,000ft and 8,000ft when it was hit, landed safely.

The pilot reportedly told officers that a drone had struck the front of the aircraft.

If confirmed, it is believed to be the first incident of its kind in the UK.

However, the incident follows an increasing number of near misses between aircaft and drones, which are prohibited to fly higher than 400ft under Civil Aviation Authority rules. 

A spokesman for the regulator said it was “totally unacceptable” to fly drones – which are generally used to capture aerial film or photographs – close to airports.

Steve Landells, the British Airline Pilots Association’s (Balpa) flight safety specialist, said: “Frankly it was only a matter of time before we had a drone strike given the huge numbers being flown around by amateurs who don’t understand the risks and the rules,” he said.

“It appears that no serious damage was done on this occasion, but what is clear is that while most drones are flown safely, sensibly and within the limits of the law, much more education of drone users and enforcement of the rules is needed to ensure our skies remain safe from this threat.”

British Airways said that the aircraft was examined by engineers and cleared for its next flight.

A spokesman added: “Safety and security are always our first priority and we will give the police every assistance with their investigation.”