Drone detection firms summoned to Heathrow as police hunt for culprit – Sky News

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Drone detection firms summoned to Heathrow as police hunt for culprit – Sky News

Drone detection firms have been summoned to Heathrow as police hunt for the operator who caused major disruption at the airport.

Sky News has learnt several companies have been called to the London airport after departure flights were temporarily grounded on Tuesday evening.

One firm says it has technology that can detect, film and track a drone as well as pinpoint its operator.

Reading-based Operational Solutions said the technology could be installed at any UK airport within 24 hours and cover the entire site within a week.

The Metropolitan Police is still hunting for the drone operator who caused Tuesday’s disruption at Heathrow after the device was seen by several people – including police officers – shortly after 5pm.

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said “extensive searches” were being carried out to identify who may have been responsible.

Planes at Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport after departures were temporarily suspended
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Departure flights were temporarily halted after several people reported seeing a drone

Aviation and security ministers are due to meet airport bosses on Wednesday following the Heathrow incident and recent disruption at Gatwick, which was forced to close for 36 hours shortly before Christmas when drones were spotted.

Sky News asked 22 UK airports about their readiness to tackle drones but none would confirm whether they had specific equipment already in place to deal with the threat posed by the devices.

Most airports said they had “robust” plans in place, with Edinburgh and Newcastle confirming they had stepped up measures since the Gatwick incident.

Liverpool and Southend airport said they were trialling anti-drone systems.

Passengers in Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport after departures were temporarily suspended
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Heathrow passengers faced delays on Tuesday

Drone tracking technology operated by the RAF was flown to Heathrow by a Chinook helicopter following Tuesday’s sightings.

The equipment – a radar system with the technology to stop the devices from flying in a certain zone – was operated over the airfield to “quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity”.

BALPA, the pilot’s union, has warned a drone strike on an airliner could be catastrophic.

Dr Rob Hunter, the union’s head of safety, accused the government of dragging its feet on the issue, saying: “They haven’t listened enough. They haven’t done enough. They do need to do more

“I’d like to think Gatwick and Heathrow incidents are powerful wake up calls.”

Heathrow and Gatwick have said they are investing millions in technology to combat the threat of drones.

Under new rules announced, the devices will have to stay further away from airports.

Airport exclusion zones will be extended from the current 1km to about 5km (three miles), with additional extensions at the end of runways.

Drone users can be fined or even jailed if they fly a drone within these zones.

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