News World Travel chaos as drone reports halt Heathrow flights
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Travel chaos as drone reports halt Heathrow flights

Heathrow airport drone sighting
The drone sighting comes after nearby Gatwick airport was shut down in a similar scare Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty
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Flights from London’s Heathrow airport were halted for about an hour after reports of a drone sighting near Europe’s busiest air hub.

The sighting raised fears that the chaos that affected Gatwick last month could be repeated on an even larger scale.

“We are responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow,” the airport said on Wednesday.

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

London’s Metropolitan Police said they had received reports of a drone near the airport at about 5pm local time on Tuesday, which they were investigating with airport authorities.

The airport confirmed about an hour later that take-offs had resumed. Flight tracker websites showed flights departing from 6pm local time.

A Reuters witness in a plane on the runway at Heathrow said multiple aircraft were waiting for permission to take off before being later told that things were starting to move .

London’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, was severely disrupted when drones were sighted on three consecutive days in December, resulting in about 1000 flights being cancelled or diverting and affecting 140,000 passengers.

Gatwick’s drone nightmare – the most disruptive yet at a major airport – exposed a new vulnerability that will be scrutinised by security forces, airlines and airport operators across the world.

The British army was forced to deploy military technology to guard the area around Gatwick, reassuring the airport that it was safe enough to fly.

British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said on Tuesday the military was preparing to deploy the same equipment at Heathrow.

“We are in contact with Heathrow Airport concerning the drone sighting,” he said.

“I have already spoken to both the Home Secretary and Defence Secretary and the military are preparing to deploy the equipment used at Gatwick at Heathrow quickly should it prove necessary.”

Both airports responded to the Gatwick incident by ordering military-grade anti-drone technology.

Heathrow said it was working closely with authorities including the police and looking at relevant technology to combat the threat of drones.

-Reuters