Military Assists Met Police Combat Heathrow Airport Drone Threat
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that “specialist equipment” has been sent to the airport at the request of the police.
Scotland Yard has launched a “full criminal investigation” after drone sightings at Heathrow airport caused flights to be suspended.
A spokesperson for the airport said the runway had been closed for an hour between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday 8th of January as a precautionary measure, while airport staff worked with the Met Police to investigate the incident.
The Met’s Commander Stuart Cundy has confirmed that military assistance had been brought in but he would not comment on the tactics to be used. The Ministry of Defence said that “specialist equipment” had been sent to the airport at the request of the police.
Cundy said: “We are carrying out extensive searches around the Heathrow area to identify any people who may be responsible for the operation of the drone.
“I want to be clear that the illegal operation of drones at an airfield is extremely dangerous. Under the Aviation Security Act it is an offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Anyone found guilty of this offence could face a life sentence.
“We are deploying significant resources – both in terms of officers and equipment – to monitor the airspace around Heathrow and to quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity; some of which are as a result of learning from the incidents at Gatwick.”
Gatwick and Heathrow Have Invested Heavily in Anti-Drone Technology
The incident follows last month’s drone drama, which saw Gatwick airport shut down for three days leaving thousands of passengers stranded and 1,000 flights cancelled. Last week, Gatwick airport announced that it had spent £5 million to prevent future attacks.
Although this most recent incident has not been as disruptive or damaging as the Gatwick drone fiasco, it does raise the issue of how prepared UK authorities are to protect vital infrastructure from drones.
This week, the UK Government announced that police were to be given extra powers to combat drones that fly near airports. Police will be able to land, seize and search such devices.
The Home Office was due to begin testing and evaluating the use of counter-drone technology at airports and prisons.
Gatwick and Heathrow have said they had invested significantly in military-grade anti-drone technology but would not provide details on exactly what technology had been installed.
Under proposed government legislation announced yesterday, drones will have to stay further away from airports and police services will be empowered to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences.