Belfast Telegraph

Belfast-based firm called in to help with Heathrow drone investigation

Planes at Terminal 5 at Heathrow were temporarily suspended on Tuesday evening following reports of drones at the airport.
Planes at Terminal 5 at Heathrow were temporarily suspended on Tuesday evening following reports of drones at the airport.
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

A Belfast drone business is believed to have been called in to investigate a drone sighting at Heathrow Airport this week which saw flights suspended at the world’s third busiest airport.

Crowded Space Drones, based in Adelaide Street, was called in by the Metropolitan Police to support military operations at the airport after a drone sighting halted departures at one of its runways on Tuesday.

Run by Andrew McQuillan, Crowded Space Drones has "significant" experience in aerial filming for a number of television stations including Sky, BBC, MTV and Liverpool Football Club, according to its website.

It operates globally and is often use by government agencies, emergency services and local authorities to deploy crews for crowd management, public safety, counter terrorism and major incident issues.

The son of former PSNI chief constable Alan McQuillan, Andrew would not comment on the company’s role in the investigation.

The “criminal investigation” has seen airports step up measures to stop drones grounding flights.

The Heathrow event came three weeks after drone sightings caused chaos at Gatwick in the run-up to Christmas, affecting the travel plans of 140,000 passengers as the runway was closed.

The Department for Transport said the Government is working with the aviation industry to explore technical solutions.

A spokesman for the Airport Operators Association, a trade association representing UK airports, said: “In light of events at Gatwick and Heathrow, airports are working together, as well as with Government and the police, to see what lessons can be learnt.

“This includes looking at what technology is available and what deterrent action, such as increased police patrols, can be taken.”

The group is reviewing whether it wants the Government to introduce legislation which would make it mandatory for drones to be fitted with geo-fencing technology to stop them entering no-fly zones, such as airports.

Heathrow would not be drawn on what action it is taking to stop drone incursions, but the airport recently said it is investing millions of pounds in equipment to prevent future flight disruption.

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said “significant resources” had been deployed to monitor the airspace and “quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity”.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “We are deploying specialist equipment to Heathrow Airport at the request of the Metropolitan Police.”

A Heathrow spokeswoman said the airport would “continue to work closely with the Metropolitan Police on their ongoing investigations”.

Following the end of the initial drone-related disturbance at Gatwick, Mr Wallace said: “I can say that we are able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK to combat this threat.”

The 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 30, 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.

Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.

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