Flights resume at Heathrow airport after suspected drone sighting

Airport had halted departures on Tuesday evening as a precautionary measure


Flights have resumed at London’s Heathrow airport after having been temporarily suspended on Tuesday evening following a drone sighting.

All flights out of the UK’s busiest airport were suspended after the drone sighting around 5pm, just weeks after a similar report at Gatwick grounded about 1,000 flights.

A spokesperson for Heathrow said earlier: “We are currently responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow and are working closely with the Met police to prevent any threat to operational safety.

“As a precautionary measure, we have stopped departures while we investigate. We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause.”

The flight tracking site, FlightRadar, showed aircraft were still able to come in to land at the airport after the announcement on Tuesday evening.

The Metropolitan police said: “At approximately 5.05pm today, 8th January, we received reports of a sighting of a drone in the vicinity of Heathrow airport. As a precautionary measure, Heathrow airport has stopped departures, and officers based at Heathrow are currently investigating the reports with colleagues [there]”.

At about 6.30pm the airport said flights had resumed.

About 140,000 people were affected by the disruption at Gatwick, which occurred over a three-day period in the run-up to Christmas. The latest incident comes only days after it was announced that both airports had invested significant sums of money in military-grade anti-drone technology.

The armed forces had to be called in to deal with the former incident and, while it would not offer details on exactly what equipment had been installed, Gatwick said it had purchased a system that offered a similar level of protection to that offered by the armed forces, while Heathrow was understood to have invested in similar equipment.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, chaired a meeting of defence chiefs, the police and Home Office officials last week, while the parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, Liz Sugg, was due to meet the heads of the UK’s major airports this week to discuss their plans to deal with drones.

On Tuesday, the UK 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 30th 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. - Reuters