Drone goal! Quadcopter menace alert freezes flights from London Heathrow Airport

Alleged sighting of annoying flying gizmo torments second UK air travel nerve-center

London Heathrow Airport temporarily halted departing flights this evening after a drone was apparently spotted hovering in the area.

Staff hit up the capital's Met Police to help probe the alleged sighting, according to a short statement issued on Twitter at 0947 PST (1747 UTC)...

As the UK and Europe's busiest airport, and the planet's second busiest, any disruptions to flights will have noticeable knock-on effects for the rest of the world's air travel. We've yet to clock any pictures or footage of the Heathrow techno-pest.

It’s not the first time claims of flying gizmos have disrupted operations at a major Brit airport. Random alleged sightings of drones plagued London Gatwick in December. The cops claimed dozens of "credible" witnesses reported seeing one or two quadcopter-like things over the runways, though no actual device was ever found. Two people were arrested but released without charge or suspicion. Departure flights were temporarily halted, and some arrival flights were diverted to other airports, including London Luton Airport, London Stansted Airport, and Manchester Airport.

A Parrot Bebop 2 drone. File picture

It'll soon be even more illegal to fly drones near UK airports


Police have yet to find the culprits behind the Gatwick drone, if it ever existed: at one point, a senior officer suggested there may never have been a drone at all, though that was later said to be a "miscommunication," and the plod were really truly treating the sightings seriously. You wouldn't want to close a major airport over nothing, right? Right, guys?

Why anyone is bothering to block flights with flying gizmos, beyond mindless mischief, is a mystery. One theory put forward was that it could have been a protest staged by environmental terrorists, or perhaps it was simply a case of mistaken reports.

Heathrow has had such problems in the past. In 2016 there was panic when there were reports that a drone had struck an Airbus A320 coming into land at the airport. It was later determined to be a plastic bag.

Drones are pesky devices to deal with. You can't easily shoot them down as we explained here.

Today's drone alert is now over, though, according to Heathrow, and normal operations have resumed, presumably because the machine, if it existed, has sodded off for the night... ®

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