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Heathrow Deploys New Anti-Drone Radar

UK airports have seen their fair share of drone disruption in recent times, including an incident that shut down Gatwick airport. In March, the UK passed new legislation to increase the drone no-fly zone around airports to 5km and now, to help enforce these rules, Heathrow airport has installed a new radar system to detect unauthorised UAVs.

The new legislation was passed following the incident at Gatwick Airport in December 2018, where continual unauthorised drone flights over the course of a day ground hundreds of flights and delayed the travel plans of 150,000 passengers.

Drone pilots who are found breaking the law and flying in Flight Restriction Zones without prior permission in place can face up to five years in prison.

The ‘Counter Drone’ technology was designed bespoke for Heathrow Airport by Operational Solutions Ltd and uses a ‘holographic radar system’ to help prevent major air traffic disruptions. The technology can detect and track offending drones in the airport’s airspace, as well as locate its operator and quickly alerting air traffic control.

Mark Legh-Smith, founder and CEO of Operational Solutions Ltd, said: “OSL is delighted that it has been selected as the solution architect and system integrator for the bespoke set of counter drone systems that have been deployed at Heathrow. We are pleased to be contributing to the safety and security of passengers and airlines at the UK’s largest international airport”.

In a nod to last year’s climate activists who caused disruption, Operational Solutions also claims that the new technology will help airports to “meet their sustainability objectives” by reducing emissions and fuel waste caused by unauthorised drones and subsequent delays to flights.

The system will also hopefully improve passenger and staff safety by reducing the risk of a drone colliding with an aircraft. Drones are generally considered more hazardous to aircraft than bird strikes due to their hard machinery, and research has found they can have devastating effects upon collision with an aircraft’s wing or engine.

Jonathan Coen, Director of Security at Heathrow said: “The safety and security of our passengers and colleagues is our number one priority. We’re delighted to have this unique system keeping our skies safe and helping passengers and cargo to get to their destinations on time”.

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Tay is passionate about using the power of photography and film for powerful visual storytelling. She has an MSc in Science Communication and has filmed wildlife and people from around the world, including South Africa, Hong Kong, and India.

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