Gatwick airport's £1million military-grade anti-drone system revealed, as travel chaos hits Heathrow
REVEALED: Gatwick airport’s £1million military-grade anti-drone system that tracks and downs devices – as chaos spreads to Heathrow with flights delayed after POLICE see rogue craft above runway
- System was developed by three British companies including one in West Sussex
- Uses hardware that can detect drones from six miles away and jams signals
- New tech was spotted on roof just days after military hardware was taken down
The technology deployed by Gatwick airport bosses to prevent further drone chaos has been revealed as an advanced system used by the U.S. military that can cost as little as £800,000.
It comes after disruption spread to Heathrow when flights were halted for nearly 90 minutes when police spotted a rogue craft above the runway.
New pictures taken at the airport on Friday show the Anti-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Defence System, or AUDS for short, on the roof of the South Terminal in West Sussex.
The system was developed by three British companies, one of which – Chess Dynamics – is based in Horsham, around 14 miles from Gatwick.
One part of the new hardware, created by Blighter Surveillance Systems, is a 360-degree scanning radar which can detect micro, mini or standard drone targets.
Gatwick airport have installed a military-grade anti-drone system on the roof of the South Terminal in West Sussex to prevent further travel chaos
It comes after disruption spread to Heathrow when flights were halted for nearly 90 minutes when police spotted a rogue craft above the runway. Pictured: part of the hardware tracks drones and jams the signals
The radar (left) can detect normal sized drones from a distance of up to six miles away, and the inhibitor (right) stops radio frequencies controlling the drone, bringing it safely down to earth
Micro drones can be spotted from up to a mile-and-a-half away, while normal sized targets can be detected from a distance of six miles.
Another aspect of the device also uses thermal imaging to detect small drones in all weather conditions, and can also track them at day and at night.
After the drones are detected, staff at Gatwick airport can then use an inhibitor to jam the signals – or radio frequencies – used by the drone, bringing it safely down to earth.
The portable device has been used ‘in active service’ by the US army and NATO since September 2016 and has been deployed in the Middle East, the companies behind it have said.
The new technology was snapped just a day after military hardware deployed at the airport on the final day of travel chaos was removed.
That system, which is said to have a range of several miles, uses four radars to give 360-degree detection in order to identify and track targets.
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Pictured: the 360-degree scanning radar which can detect micro, mini or standard drone targets, developed by Blighter Surveillance Systems
Micro drones can be spotted from up to a mile-and-a-half away using the kit, which has been used ‘in active service’ by the US army and NATO since September 2016
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last week: ‘The military capability has now been withdrawn from Gatwick.
‘The Armed Forces stand ever-ready to assist should a request for support be received.’
Last week, Gatwick Airport revealed it had spent around £5million on new technology to stop drones disrupting flights again – but refused to reveal when it would be installed or any further details.
More than 140,000 passengers had their flights either cancelled or delayed during 36 hours of chaos at the airport between December 19 and December 21.
The cost of the chaos caused by the drones is expected to have run into tens of million pounds.
The cat and mouse game with police started as drones were deliberately flown over officers and the Gatwick control tower while flashing on-board lights before heading for the runway when officials tried to reopen it.
Marksmen were seen carrying shotguns at Gatwick – but officers said they could not shoot down the remote-controlled craft for fear of stray bullets.
Last night, Heathrow Airport departures were brought to a standstill for nearly 90 minutes after a drone was spotted over the runway.
Travel experts estimate that around 40 flights were delayed in the shutdown, and passengers tweeted their frustration at chaos paralysing yet another UK airport.
Scotland Yard have said their own officers were among those who saw the drone, and that the military have been called in to support them.
The hardware has been installed on the roof of the south terminal at Gatwick (pictured), and replaces military hardware used on December 21 that was removed just days before
Video from a promotional video about the AUDS Anti-UAV Defence system shows it in action
It came came barely 24 hours after the Government laid out plans for new legislation giving airports powers to beef up their defences against drones.
Airport workers could be given powers to shoot down drones with ‘net’ bazookas and shotguns under new laws.
The Home Office has said it will begin testing new counter-drone technology to allow airports to detect them and bring them down if they pose a threat.
Airport bosses have been criticised for not learning from the mistakes of last month and not investing in drone protection technology.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: ‘This second drone incident in less than a month has shown how important it is that airports invest in drone protection technology immediately.
‘The Government should ensure that every airport does so in the interests of public safety and should accelerate and strengthen its other drone legislation planned for later this year. It’s time to act swiftly and decisively.
‘An aircraft or helicopter collision with a drone has the potential to be catastrophic and so it’s right that Heathrow shut until it was sure flights could take off and land safely again.
‘While it may be frustrating for the passengers who are delayed, it’s their safety that must come first.’