A DRONE being flown illegally came dangerously close to the path of a passenger plane near Southend Airport, an investigation has found.

The drone, which was being flown above the 400ft limit, was deemed by the pilot to be at risk of colliding with the plane after it was spotted hovering less than 50m ahead of the jet near to the airport.

The pilot described how the drone then passed above the plane “at high speed” and he deemed the incident to be of the highest risk - category A.

The incident, which happened on March 24 at about 6.15pm, was reported to the Airprox Board which has concluded in a report: “The drone was being flown above the maximum permitted height of 400ft and in controlled airspace such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location.

“The board agreed that the incident was therefore best described as the drone was flown into conflict with the EMB170 plane.

“The board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.”

It is not known if there were passengers on the plane at the time of the incident.

The news comes as the Government has introduced a three-mile drone ban around Southend Airport in a bid to prevent this kind of risk and other instances of drone misuse.

Jonathan Nicholson, Assistant Director at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) added: “It is illegal to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment. Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations.

“The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe.

“The CAA’s Dronecode provides advice on how to fly your drone safely and follow the rules.”

“You can see it at www.dronesafe.uk “