After the two-day blockade of the Gatwick airport end of 2018, Heathrow Airport suspended flights for an hour on Tuesday, January 8, after a report concerning a drone near the runways.
Heathrow, the UK’s main airport, was blocked for an hour on Tuesday, January 8, after a drone was reported flying near the airport’s runways. Flights quickly resumed, but the incident followed the near total blockage of Gatwick Airport near London between 19 and 21 December.
About 50 witnesses claiming that one or more drones were flying around the airport had led the authorities to cancel the departure of a thousand flights, a few days before Christmas Eve.
What is the status of the investigation?
The investigation seems to be at a standstill. Two days after the incident, British police arrested a couple of amateur UAV pilots, who were quickly exonerated. Meanwhile, a tabloid published their names and photographs.
Despite several dozen testimonies, a significant police deployment, a call for evidence, with a reward of more than 60,000 euros, and the help of army units, no other arrests have taken place. The police in Sussex made numerous contradictory statements at the end of December. One of the investigators said at the end of December that he could not rule out the possibility that there had never been a drone around the airport until his superiors strongly contradicted him.
Do drones represent a danger to commercial aircrafts?
Even when they are small, drones represent a danger to aircraft, especially during take-off. In particular, they can be sucked into the turbines and block the operation of the engines. More indirectly, airports prohibit, for security reasons, from filming or taking photographs of their activities.
What does the British legislation say?
In almost all countries, it is against the law to fly drones near airports, around prisons, military sites or power plants. After the Gatwick blockade, the British government banned a series of new measures: police will now have the power to issue direct tickets to drone pilots, no-fly zones around airports have extended to five kilometers, and operators of flying aircraft above a certain weight will have to register.
Are there efficient anti-drone tools on the market?
Gatwick Airport announced at the end of December that it had released more than five million euros to equip itself with anti-drone technology, without specifying which one. Several companies offer different types of tools, which aim either to shoot down aircraft or to block communications between the drone and its operator and whose effectiveness is subject to debate.
The British army invested last year in a solution developed by a company but explained that it had not yet received the equipment in question. The British Air Force reported using another technology at the end of December in Gatwick, again without specifying which one.