Drone sighting grounds flights out of UK's Heathrow Airport
Another drone sighting has caused a temporary shutdown of a major UK airport today, with London's Heathrow halting departures for several hours as investigations commenced following a suspicious unmanned aircraft in the vicinity.
The shutdown follows another resulting from drone sightings at London's Gatwick airport in December, which disrupted hundreds of flights and left thousands of travelers in limbo. While that incident affected travel through the airport for more than 24 hours (not to mention the flow-on effects of delayed flights around the world), Heathrow seems to have got things back up and running pretty promptly.
Departures were stopped soon after Metropolitan Police received reports of drone sightings near the airport around 5 pm local time, according to the BBC. Heathrow Airport then said it was working with the police and Air Traffic Control to prevent threats to safety as a precautionary measure. It then resumed flights around an hour after the sighting.
Though the disruption was relatively short-lived, it is another example of how irresponsible drone pilots can easily use the small aircraft to create big problems. While there are a few technological solutions designed to ground illegal ground drones in situations like this, such as radio-jammers and shoulder-launched nets, none of them have been established as effective in preventing an event such as this.
As reported by the BBC, both Gatwick and Heathrow last week announced plans to invest millions of pounds in anti-drone solutions, though exactly what that entails isn't clear. In the meantime, Scotland Yard has launched a full criminal investigation to find the culprit in light of today's incident.