in Aerospace / Security

Heathrow disrupted by drones

Posted 9 January 2019 · Add Comment

Yesterday sightings of drones around Heathrow Airport led to some flights being temporarily suspended while an investigation was conducted by the Metropolitan Police, which deployed significant resources to deal with the incident.

Commander Stuart Cundy, said: “Shortly after 17:00hrs on Tuesday, we received reports of a sighting of a drone at Heathrow Airport. As part of our established response plans to such an incident, officers were swiftly deployed across the airport and we continue to work closely with colleagues from Heathrow Airport Limited.

“As a precaution, departures were stopped at the airport whilst initial enquiries were made. Once it was established it was safe to do so, departures were resumed just after 18:00hrs and the airport is now fully operational.

“Our priority is to ensure that there is no ongoing threat to the safety of those at the airport and identify those responsible for this dangerous act.

“Police officers were amongst those who saw the drone and a full criminal investigation has been launched. 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.

“Following today's sighting, military assistance has been implemented to support us. However, we will not be discussing in any further detail the range of tactics available to us as this would only serve to potentially undermine their effectiveness.

“We are determined to identify anyone who may have been involved in today's incident and I would urge anybody who may have information that could assist our investigation to call 101 quoting Heathrow drone incident.

“Similarly, if you see anyone acting suspiciously, including anybody operating a drone or model aircraft in the area around Heathrow, or other airports, then dial 999 immediately."


Courtesy Heathrow Airport

The incident at Heathrow occured just a day after the government announced plans to give police new powers to tackle drones misuse and abuse, with the publication of their response to the drones consultation.

Following over 5,000 responses to the consultation, new legislation will give police officers the additional power to land drones and require users to produce the proper documentation. The police will have the power to search premises and seize drones — including electronic data stored within the device — where a serious offence has been committed and a warrant is secured.

The Home Office will also begin to test and evaluate the safe use of a range of counter-drone technology in the UK. This crucial technology will detect drones from flying around sensitive sites, including airports and prisons, and develop a range of options to respond to drones, helping to prevent a repeat of incidents such as that recently experienced at Gatwick.

Important safety proposals being taken forward include better protection for our airports by significantly extending the area around airports and runways in which drones are banned from being flown. This builds on the government’s changes to the law last year which made it illegal to fly a drone above 400 feet or within one kilometre of an airport.

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling made a statement in the House of Commons on Monday evening. In his statement he said: "While airlines and airports welcomed our recent airport drone restriction measures, they also asked for the current airport rules to be amended in order to better protect the landing and take-off paths of aircraft. We have listened to those concerns and we have been working with the CAA and NATS to develop the optimum exclusion zone that will help to meet those requirements. It is important to stress that any restriction zone would not have prevented a deliberate incident such as that at Gatwick.

"There is no question but that lessons have to be learned from what happened at Gatwick. Passengers have to be able to travel without fear of their trips being disrupted by malicious drone use. Airports must be prepared to deal with incidents of this type, and the police need the proper powers to deal with drone offences."

Aviation Minister, Liz Sugg said: "Drones have the potential to bring significant benefits and opportunities, but with the speed of technological advancement comes risk, and safety and security must be our top priorities.

"That’s why we are giving the police powers to deal with those using drones irresponsibly. Along with additional safety measures these will help ensure the potential of this technology is harnessed in a responsible and safe way."

The police will also be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences to ensure immediate and effective enforcement of vital rules. Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.

 

 

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