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Edinburgh Airport to Trial Drone Tracking Technology

Sinead Donnelly


anti-drone technologies

The tracking measures follow police probes into the potentially illegal use of a remote-controlled craft nearby.

Edinburgh Airport, the busiest airport in Scotland, is trialling technology to track drones following police probe into ‘illegal use’ nearby.

Software tests will allow officials to ‘triangulate’ the precise location of drones invading the skies around the Edinburgh hub. These new tracking measures follow police probes into the potentially illegal use of a remote-controlled craft nearby.

A source familiar with the matter said: “They are putting technology into place so that if a drone goes up they can pinpoint exactly where the drone is. They’ll be able to tell if there’s a genuine drone.”

An Edinburgh Airport spokesman said: “We continually look at our security provisions, including drone detection capabilities, and strengthen where and when appropriate.

“The potential threat caused by drones is something all airports are alert to and we work closely with the police to identify and inform in the event of any sighting.

“It’s imperative drone users are aware of requirements when operating a device. Any misuse can be extremely dangerous and a criminal offence.”

UK Drone Laws

Aside from military missions, there are thousands of civilian drones used for aerial crop surveys, photography, search and rescue operations and delivering medical supplies to inaccessible regions, among others.

Drones for recreational use do not require registration or a permit. However, if you are planning to use your drone for paid work, you will need Permission for Aerial Work and this must be reviewed annually.

The Civil Aviation Association has emphasised that in order to keep drone flight safe and legal you may need permission depending on where you would like to fly the drone.

The Department of Transport launched new rules over the use of drones on the 30th of July 2018. Some of the most important rules include keeping your drone within your line of sight and at a maximum height of 400ft.

A drone must also be within 500m of its controller horizontally. Drones must be kept far from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields. In addition, camera-equipped drones must not be flown within 150m of a congested area of a large group of people.

When is it illegal to use drones?

Drones have been banned from flying above 400ft, and within one kilometre of airport boundaries. Where there is an air traffic control unit a flight at any height is prohibited.
If anyone breaches the drone restrictions, they could face penalties of up to £2,500.

Consequently, you could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Other measures being considered include giving police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £300 for misuse and the ability to seize drones being used irresponsibly.

The legislation was drafted after 93 near misses between drones and aircrafts were reported in 2017.

Revisiting Gatwick airport

On the 28th of April 2019, at least four flights into Gatwick were diverted to Stansted airport following reports of a drone in the area.

Passengers travelling from Amsterdam and Barcelona into the West Sussex airport were diverted.

The captain told those onboard the easyJet flight from Amsterdam that a plane had been in “close proximity” to a drone.

Another easyJet flight from Berlin was diverted to the Essex airport before refuelling and heading back to Gatwick. A flight from Heraklion in Greece that was also diverted to Stansted.

A representative for Gatwick said the pilot of one of the disrupted flights reported a sighting of a drone. However, nothing was picked up on radar or on the airport’s anti-drone systems.

A full assessment took place around 4.05pm and all the diverted flights began returning to Gatwick.

East Midlands airport drone disruptions

Meanwhile, detectives have launched an investigation after three drones disrupted flights at East Midlands airport during a nearby music festival last Saturday.

Leicestershire police said a pilot of one of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had been interviewed by officers after it was reported to police at 9.30am near the Download festival at Donington Park.

Two further drones were reported inside the restricted airspace at East Midlands airport at midnight and on Sunday at 1.30pm. Flights were delayed at the airport as a result of the drones.

Police said they had carried out inquiries in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority and East Midlands airport. Despite extensive inquiries at the scene, the pilots of the two other UAVs involved have not yet been identified, police said.

A spokeswoman for Leicestershire police said: “Due to the incidents taking place in close proximity to East Midlands airport, a number of flights were temporarily delayed as a result of each report.”

A spokesman for East Midlands airport said: “A TUI flight bound for Larnaca and a Ryanair flight to Pisa experienced minor delays departing EMA on Sunday due to the sighting of an unmanned aerial vehicle over the Download festival site.”

What’s Prompted Edinburgh’s drone tracking trial?

Last month, police investigated a drone that was spotted by jet crews near Edinburgh airport. Several inbound flights reported seeing the device at various heights.

Although the police force dealt with more than 700 drone incidents in the past year — only a fraction were reported as crimes.

Police started recording incidents involving the gadgets last April. In the first 12 months, 732 sightings were reported, however, only 57 were treated as offences.

Glasgow has had the most offences reported at 130, five of which were deemed criminal. Edinburgh saw 77 incidents, with seven subject to police reports.

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Sinead Donnelly


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