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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 19 January 2021

Anyone found guilty of operating drone at airfield 'could face life sentence', Met Police says

Departures from Heathrow Airport were suspended temporarily yesterday following a suspected drone sighting.

Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport
Image: Hannah McKay via PA Images

LONDON’S MET POLICE have said that anyone found guilty endangering an aircraft could face a life sentence after flights were temporarily suspended at Heathrow Airport yesterday afternoon as a result of a suspected drone sighting. 

Departures from the airport were suspended for around an hour shortly after 5pm following a suspected drone sighting. 

Met Police officers were deployed to the airport and once it was established it was safe to do so, departures were resumed just after 6pm. 

Police officers were among those who saw the drone, according to Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy.

A full criminal investigation has now been launched. 

“We are carrying out extensive searches around the Heathrow area to identify any people who may be responsible for the operation of the drone,” Cundy said. 

I want to be clear that the illegal operation of drones at an airfield is extremely dangerous. 
Under the Aviation Security Act it is an offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft, anyone found guilty of this offence could face a life sentence. 

The latest incident follows long delays at Gatwick Airport prior to Christmas when suspected drones caused travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

“We are deploying significant resources – both in terms of officers and equipment – to monitor the airspace around Heathrow and to quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity; some of which are as a result of learning from incidents at Gatwick,” Cundy said. 

Following yesterday’s sighting, military assistance has been implemented to support the Met Police. 

Cundy said the Met Police “will not be discussing in any further detail the range of tactics available to us as this would only serve to potentially undermine their effectiveness”. 

“We are determined to identify anyone who may have been involved in [yesterday's] incident,” he said. 

Anyone who may have information that could assist the investigation is being asked to call 101 quoting Heathrow drone incident. 

Similarly, if someone sees anyone acting suspiciously, including anybody operating a drone or model aircraft in the area around Heathrow, or other airports, they are being asked to call 999 immediately. 

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