Wednesday, 9 January 2019

UK's Armed Forces deployed to London Heathrow to tackle drone activity

Photo London Heathrow Airport
The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that it had provided specialist support to the Metropolitan Police to tackle a drone activity at Heathrow airport. This support includes specialist technology to prevent drones from flying in the area. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “Last night at the request of the Metropolitan Police, our Armed Forces deployed to assist and support them. Our Armed Forces are always there when needed, ready to support the civilian authorities with our capabilities.” 

This follows the temporary hour-long halt to departures at the airport shortly after 1705 on Tuesday, January 8th that caused over forty flights to be delayed.  London's Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard confirmed a "full criminal investigation" into the incident was underway - and that officers were among those to see the drone over the approach to the northern runway. 

It is understood that RAF personnel are at the airport assisting police and the airport's operator to combat any future drone incursions that may arise.  Cabinet Minister  David Lidington, confirmed that the government was looking at the possibility of further legislation was required.  “Clearly, the government is looking at the law to see whether there are ways in which it could be strengthened. “What I think the airports themselves have to do is step up and do more of is investment in technology to both detect and then stop drones from flying,”   he told morning television.

His comments come ahead of a proposed meeting between the heads of various UK airports has been scheduled with Ben Wallace, the Security Minister and Liz Sugg, the Aviation Minister. The meeting will look at all possible issues regarding the illegal use of drones at or near airports and what can or should be done to prevent the mass disruption that afflicted passengers at London Gatwick for days just before Christmas.

Gatwick Airport has upgraded its systems following the December drone disruption, “Several million pounds has been invested by Gatwick with the aim of ensuring the airport is equipped to the level provided by the Armed Forces during the recent illegal and unprecedented drone activity,” a spokesperson for the airport confirmed.  Adding, “Safety remains our number one priority, and we have extensive measures and equipment in place at Gatwick now which provide the same level of reassurance going forward.” 

Meanwhile, the police at Heathrow have appealed for information, “Anyone with information about the incident or who may have suspicions in relation to illegal drone in the area of are asked to report online or call 101. If you see anyone acting suspiciously in the area of the airport, or you believe you have sighted a drone or model aircraft in the area of an airport, then please dial 999 immediately.”