Drone delays hit Heathrow holidaymakers

14 January 2019 08:17

Departures from Heathrow were suspended causing delays

Departures from Heathrow were suspended causing delays

The military was brought in on Tuesday night after police officers saw a drone operating at Heathrow Airport, forcing departures to be suspended for an hour.

The Metropolitan Police said it was deploying significant resources to tackle the issue, which comes just three weeks after drone-related chaos at Gatwick Airport in the run-up to Christmas.

Heathrow apologised for any disruption caused to passengers who had their flights out of the London airport delayed.

Full criminal investigation

Stuart Cundy, Commander of the Met Police, said police officers were among the first to see the drone and the force had launched a full criminal investigation.

"We are carrying out extensive searches around the Heathrow area to identify any people who may be responsible for the operation of the drone," he said.

"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.

He added: "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."

He said if people saw anyone acting suspiciously, including operating a drone or model aircraft in the area around Heathrow or other airports, they should dial 999.

Flight disruption

The drone sighting came four days after both Heathrow and Gatwick airports reported they were investing millions of pounds in equipment to prevent future flight disruption.

Between December 19 and 21, Gatwick was repeatedly forced to close due to reported drone sightings, causing mass disruption to passengers, with about 1,000 flights affected.

The Army was brought in to help deal with the travel chaos and was not stood down until after Christmas.

The anti-drone equipment can detect and jam communications between a drone and its operator and was deployed on a roof at Gatwick.

The system, which is said to have a range of several miles, uses four radars to give 360-degree detection in order to identify and track targets.

Following the end of the initial drone-related disturbance at Gatwick, security minister Ben Wallace said: "I can say that we are able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK to combat this threat."

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