Flights at Heathrow Airport temporarily grounded after drone sightings

Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow Airport.
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Heathrow Airport, the busiest in Europe, temporarily halted departures after reports of a drone sighting near flight-paths.

Departures were temporarily suspended at Heathrow following “reports of drones” at the airport.

The west London hub apologised for any disruption caused to passengers after flights were suspended for around an hour on Tuesday.

A Heathrow spokesman said airport staff were continuing to monitor the situation.

He said: “We continue to work closely with the Met Police to respond to reports of drones at Heathrow.

“Based on standard operating procedures, working with Air Traffic Control and the Met Police, we have resumed departures out of Heathrow following a short suspension.

“We continue to monitor this situation and apologise to any passengers that were affected by this disruption.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh Airport to strengthen security after drone chaos

Transport minister Chris Grayling said during the incident: “We are in contact with @HeathrowAirport concerning the drone sighting. I have already spoken to both the Home Secretary and Defence Secretary and the military are preparing to deploy the equipment used at Gatwick at Heathrow quickly should it prove necessary.”

The alleged sightings came four days after both Heathrow and Gatwick airports reported they were investing millions of pounds in equipment to prevent future flight disruption.

Between December 19 and 21, Gatwick was repeatedly forced to close due to reported drone sightings, causing mass disruption to passengers, with about 1,000 flights affected.

The Army was brought in to help deal with the travel chaos and was not stood down until after Christmas.

The anti-drone equipment can detect and jam communications between a drone and its operator and was deployed on a roof at Gatwick.

The system, which is said to have a range of several miles, uses four radars to give 360-degree detection in order to identify and track targets.

Following the end to the initial drone-related disturbance at Gatwick, Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “I can say that we are able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK to combat this threat.”

On Tuesday, the Government announced a package of measures designed to give police extra powers to combat drones.

The exclusion zone around airports will be extended to approximately a 5km-radius (3.1 miles), with additional extensions from runway ends.

Ministers also announced that from November 30, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will be required to register and take an online drone pilot competency test.

Police will also be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences to ensure immediate and effective enforcement of the new rules.

Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.