January 14, 2020

Heathrow deploys counter drone system to combat rogue UAVs

By Lucy Ingham

Heathrow Airport has today deployed an anti-drone system as part of an exhaustive set of counter drone measures designed to prevent autonomous aerial vehicles (UAVs) from disrupting flights.

The counter drone system, which has been developed by Thales-owned Aveillant, is designed to detect and track drones in the airspace surrounding the airport, and rapidly alert Heathrow’s operators of their presence.

Notably, it is also able to identify the location of the drone pilots themselves, enabling law enforcement to quickly find and stop them.

Heathrow counter drone system to enforce law

The development of the technology follows the introduction of a law banning unauthorised drones from flying within 5km of any airport boundary in the UK. Breaking the law, which came into force in March 2019, is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years.

Its enactment followed an incident at Gatwick Airport in December 2018, where a drone flown at regular intervals over the course of a day, grounding flights and impacting the travel plans of 150,000 passengers.

However, the law has not stopped climate activists from attempting to use drones at airports, including Heathrow, to protest the industry’s environmental record.

It is hoped that the technology will help enforce the law. Aveillant also claims that the counter drone system will help Heathrow “meet its sustainability objectives” as the downtime associated with drone disruption increases fuel wastage.

It will also, according to the company, improve passenger safety by cutting the risk of a drone colliding with an aircraft.

“The safety and security of our passengers and colleagues is our number one priority. That is why we’re investing in this new cutting-edge technology which will enhance our capabilities in the detection and deterrence of drones in and around our airfield,” said Jonathan Coen, director of security for Heathrow Airport.

“We’re delighted to have this unique system keeping our skies safe and helping passengers and cargo to get to their destinations on time.”

Read more: Forget new drone laws – only anti-drone technology will stop another Gatwick

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