A drone was flown into conflict with an RAF Wittering plane close to where the Burghley Horse Trials was taking place.
The incident on August 31 last year was one of more than 300 ‘near-misses’ between drones and aircraft across the UK, even before the major disruption seen at Gatwick and Heathrow this winter.
Drone sightings brought 36 hours of chaos to Gatwick Airport in the run-up to Christmas, with runways closed and 1,000 flights affected in what police described as a “deliberate act” of disruption.
Heathrow was also forced to ground flights after drone sightings in early January.
But pilots had begun to report narrowly missing drones in the sky from 2010 onwards, analysis of hundreds of official reports shows.
One such incident was at Wittering last year, after the object was spotted by the pilot of a Tutor as it departed the airbase.
The silver drone was located 100m to the left, just to the south of the Burghley Horse Trials which had its own drone operating up to 400ft.
However, a report by the UK Airprox Board concluded that the Burghley Horse Trials drone was “probably not the drone in question”.
It stated: “The subject drone was being flown above the maximum permitted height of 400ft 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 Tutor.
“The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where, although safety had been reduced, there had been no risk of collision.”
The owner of the drone has not been discovered
An RAF Wittering spokesman said all of its pilots are “trained to identify potential hazards as early as practicable”, which could include other aircraft, birds or drones.
He added: “If any drone operating company wants to talk to us our door is always open.”
The risk of drones was highlighted in a court case covered by the Peterborough Telegraph last November when Sergej Miaun became the first person in the UK to be prosecuted for flying a drone which interfered with a police vehicle.
Miaun (37) from High Road, Guyhirn, had disrupted a police helicopter search for a missing woman in the River Nene in Guyhirn in an act which could have brought about ‘catastrophic’ consequences. Miaun received fines totalling £464 and had to surrender the drone.