Updated: Heathrow and Gatwick Airports Shut Down from Deliberate Drone Disruption

December 20, 2018

Dedrone’s Drone Detection Technology is Deployed Globally to Protect Airports, Military, Correctional Facility Airspace

In December 2018, Gatwick Airport’s runway was unavailable due to continued drone sightings, and as a result, many airlines canceled flights. A few weeks later, in January 2019, Heathrow Airport experienced a similar drone disruption, prompting the airport to delay departures. Dedrone technology is deployed around the world with militaries, correctional facilities, for public events and at airports. However, international aviation organizations have not yet adopted drone detection technology, leaving airports vulnerable to drone threats and incursions.

In 2018, Dedrone installed counter-drone technology at four airports across the United Kingdom in order to identify and analyze drone activity. The four airports looked to Dedrone technology to determine if they had any drone incursions at all, and if so, begin deploying a complete counter-drone solution to protect their operations. Drone activity was monitored for a total of 148 days, and during this time, 285 drones were detected. The Dedrone UK Airport Counter-Drone Study 2018 includes our key learnings and outcomes from this study and can be read here.

Here is a brief overview of how Dedrone drone detection technology can help at airports like Heathrow and Gatwick:

  • What is the current status of counter-drone technology in airports? There are airports doing testing, but very few airports are putting them into use.
  • Have unauthorized drones interrupted airport operations before? Yes, check out the Dedrone Drone Incident Center for references.
  • Can airports shoot down drones? International aviation agencies classify a drone flying as an aircraft in flight. If an airport were to take it down, they would have then downed an aircraft. So until the laws have caught up, there is nothing airports can do without involving a government agency to initiate the countermeasure. There are technologies being developed, including radio frequency jammers, but they are not authorized for commercial or airport use.
  • If drone detection technology is available, why isn’t it being used at all airports? In our conversations with international and US airports, our understanding is that some federal agencies have advised airports not to adopt counter-drone solutions until they say otherwise. Here is a copy of Updated Guidance on Guidance on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Detection and Countermeasures Technology (Counter-UAS) at Airports from the FAA. This lag will only become increasingly more dangerous as more incidents occur without a federal agency acting on a solution to allow airports to be proactive with monitoring drone activity in their airspace.
  • What does Dedrone do? The Dedrone platform is a fully automatic counter-drone solution, and uniquely designed to passively detect, classify, and mitigate drone-based threats. RF signals are processed and evaluated with the intelligent DroneTracker software. DroneTracker’s correlation and analysis of this information reliably classifies approaching drones and triggers alarms to alert security staff.
  • Could Dedrone technology have prevented disruptions like the one at Heathrow and Gatwick? Dedrone technology is able to alert an airport when a drone enters protected airspace and follow the drone’s flight path to locate and apprehend the pilot. Drone detection technology provides situational awareness of the lower airspace and gives airports an opportunity to get ahead of the threat before it causes harm or disrupts operations.
  • What’s Dedrone doing now at airports? Dedrone is currently protecting the airspace of several airports around the world. Additionally, the company is involved with a demo at Manchester Airport with Vodafone, Altitude Angel, and other technology partners.
  • How do federal aviation groups currently monitor for drones? Anecdotally. Some federal agencies like the FAA have collected reports of UAS sightings from pilots, and provided these reports to the public since around November 2014. They provide some insight on the types of conflict drones pose at airports and to aircraft pilots, if evasive maneuvers are needed, if and what kind of law enforcement is contacted, and if there is any pursuit of the pilot/criminal outcome.  
  • How would a drone be able to evade the UK Army's radar and signal jamming systems around Gatwick? There is no one singular sensor detection technology that can detect 100% of drones. This is why Dedrone has a multi-layered detection approach, incorporating sensor technologies such as radio frequency, cameras,radar and microphones.

For more information, visit www.dedrone.com and https://www.dedrone.com/industry/airports

Additional Reading:

Dedrone Blog: Frequent Flyers: Drones at the Airport Continue to Arrive Unannounced

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