Heathrow Airport installs anti-drone system that can locate UAV pilots

It will help enforce the five-kilometer drone no-fly zone around the airport.

The UK knows first-hand how disruptive drones can be to major airports. Last March, it introduced legislation to widen the drone no-fly zone around airports to five kilometers. Now, to enforce the new rules, London's Heathrow Airport has installed a system to detect and identify unauthorized UAVs.

The one-of-a-kind "Counter Drone" system was designed for Heathrow Airport by Operational Solutions Ltd, with help from manufacturers like Aveillant. In addition to detecting and tracking unauthorized drones, the system will locate the drone pilots, who can face up to five years in prison for flying in a UK Flight Restriction Zone without permission.

According to Bloomberg, the Counter Drone technology uses a holographic radar system, the same used at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport. It's unclear, though, if Heathrow's system includes a way to disable drones once they've been identified.

Better drone detection systems should help prevent major air traffic problems. In 2018, drones flying near London's Gatwick airport during the peak of holiday travel affected 110,000 passengers and 760 flights. More recently, police arrested climate protestors who attempted to close Heathrow Airport using illegal drone flights. In addition to keeping passengers and airport staff safe, the system could help reduce the fuel wasted by flight stacking and delays caused by unauthorized drone use.