plane drone collision

All airports should install anti-drone tech, says defence secretary

Image credit: Dreamstime

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson has said that all UK airports will need to purchase anti-drone equipment because the Royal Air Force cannot deal with every incident where drones are flown near runways.

The UK’s largest airports, Gatwick and Heathrow, already announced last week that they will install anti-drone technology following last month’s incident at Gatwick which affected thousands of passengers.

This was followed by another drone incident at Heathrow a matter of days ago.

Williamson said that technology to detect and deter the gadgets is a “logical thing” for airports to invest in.

A system that can detect, track and ground the devices has already been installed on the roof of Gatwick’s South Terminal.

Civil Aviation Authority figures show 120 near misses between drones and aircraft were reported in the year to 4 December 2018, up 29 per cent on the total of 93 in the whole of 2017

There were just six incidents recorded in 2014.

Speaking on a visit to RAF Marham, Norfolk, Williamson said: “I think that everyone would be expecting all airports to be having this detection, and deterrence effect also, at all commercial airports in the future.

“It is a logical thing for them to be investing (in). It wouldn’t be right to expect the RAF to be the people that are constantly stepping in on this.”

Aviation minister Baroness Sugg and security minister Ben Wallace held a meeting with airport bosses on Thursday to discuss plans to crack down on the problem.

Around 10 of Britain’s busiest airports, such as the main London airports, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, all told the ministers that they have drone detection equipment in place or are planning to install it.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is setting up a cross-Government drone security action group to ensure close cooperation between officials from the DfT, Home Office, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice.

New rules will extend the exclusion zone around airports to approximately a 5km-radius. This is expected to come into force by the start of April.

From 30 November, 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's instruction to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.

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