London Heathrow installs anti-drone system to detect potential disruptions

Jan 14, 2020

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London Heathrow Airport announced Tuesday it has deployed a new system aimed at preventing drones from entering its airspace and interrupting operations.

The product, manufactured by Thales SA, detects and identifies drones when they enter the airspace. The radar system can detect drones as far as 3.1 miles away in all directions. If it detects a drone around the airspace, the airport can then opt to deploy countermeasures.

No drone zone sign not allowing flying of quadcopter at military police site near airport uk (Photo by Richard Johnson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Johnson/Getty Images)

Representatives for Thales wouldn’t say what Heathrow plans to use as its countermeasures. A spokesperson for the airport also declined comment.

Elsewhere in the world, countermeasures have included disruptive radio waves, dispatching eagles or deploying nets to pull devices out of the skies.

According to Bloomberg, drone-disabling technology was not part of Thales’ contract with Heathrow.

In March 2019, legislation took effect that prohibits drones from flying within any Flight Restriction Zone, which extends to 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) from U.K. airports. Drone operators who operate their devices within an airport’s perimeter face a prison sentence of up to five years.

Heathrow’s new detection system is the same one that’s already in use at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport.

The introduction of the drone detection technology follows several reports of drones at airports around London, including at Gatwick and Heathrow. In September, London police arrested two climate protestors who were using drones in an attempt to close LHR operations. In December 2018, Gatwick airport was closed for more than 24 hours around the busy holiday travel season when there were multiple drone sightings near the runway.

Featured photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

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