Skip to main content

U.K.’s busiest airport deploys new anti-drone system for safer skies

The U.K.’s Heathrow airport has installed an advanced drone detection system to help it pinpoint unauthorized remotely-controlled aircraft flying into its airspace.

The move follows repeated incursions into the airport’s airspace in recent years, including efforts by environmental activists who tried to force the airport’s temporary closure in September 2019 as part of a climate-change protest. It also comes after a costly incident at nearby Gatwick airport in 2018 when suspected drone sightings prompted the airport’s operator to suspend all incoming and outgoing flights for 30 hours. No one has ever been charged in connection with the incident.

London Heathrow, the U.K.’s busiest airport, is using a system developed by Cambridge-based Aveillant and Reading-based Operational Solutions that utilizes specially developed Holographic Radar technology to detect unauthorized flying objects that come close to the transportation hub. The system offers real-time, three-dimensional surveillance of the targeted airspace through the use of a modular array that can be set up to match the airport requirements of range and coverage, according to the company. The technology, which is also being used at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, has the added capability of locating the drone pilots themselves, enabling the airport’s security team to respond quickly in person.

The system doesn’t have the ability to disable rogue drones, according to Bloomberg, suggesting that Heathrow has other equipment in place capable of such functionality.

“This new kit will enhance detection capabilities and minimize delays, helping passengers to get away on time,” Aveillant said in a release. “The technology will also help the airport to meet its sustainability objectives, by reducing the fuel wastage and additional flight stacking caused by unauthorized drones use.”

Legislation introduced in the U.K. in March 2019 extended the ban on unauthorized drones from 1 km (0.62 miles) to 5 km (3.1 miles) of an airport’s boundary. Drone operators who break the law and fly without permission in a restricted zone can face a prison sentence of up to five years, though a fine could also be handed out. A man convicted of flying a model airplane within 500 meters of Heathrow at the end of 2018, for example, escaped jail but was hit with a fine of 2,000 British pounds (about $2,600).

“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,” Jonathan Coen, director of security for Heathrow airport, said in a release. “We’re delighted to have this unique system keeping our skies safe and helping passengers and cargo to get to their destinations on time.”

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Where to buy the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range in the U.K.
Samsung Galaxy s10e hands-on

The Galaxy S10 range is yours to buy right now, following a very successful pre-order period in the United Kingdom. How successful? More S10 phones have been pre-ordered than any Samsung phone before it, according to the company, with the S10 Plus taking 57 percent of the sales. The prism black version has proven most popular across the range.

Want to get one for yourself? If you know which model you want, or even if you haven’t decided yet, we’ve gathered together the best U.K. deals here. If you’re in the U.S. and are looking for ways to buy the Galaxy S10, all the best U.S. deals are here.
Pre-orders, prices, and release date
The three Galaxy S10 phones — the Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, and the Galaxy S10e — were released on March 8.
How about the prices?
Galaxy S10 — 8GB/128GB costs 800 British pounds. 8GB/512GB costs 1,000 British pounds.

Read more
Drones force one of the world’s busiest airports to suspend all flights
Biggest airplanes in the world

One of the world's busiest airports was forced to suspend or divert all flights on Wednesday night, December 19, over safety concerns when two drones were spotted flying close to the airfield.

The incident, which occurred at Gatwick Airport in southeast England, started just after 9 p.m. local time following "multiple reports" of two remotely controlled multi-rotor copters flying "over the runway," Chris Woodruff, Gatwick's chief operating officer, told the BBC.

Read more
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more