Was a third runway protester behind the Heathrow drone? Police launch a manhunt in nearby villages after 100 flights were grounded in the latest airport chaos
- Flights were delayed at Heatrow Airport after a drone was spotted flying nearby
- A police manhunt is underway tonight in villages just half a mile from the airport
- There are fears a third-runway protester is behind the latest drone shut down
- Scotland Yard has launched a ‘full criminal investigation’ into the incident
A police manhunt was under way last night in villages near Heathrow amid fears a third-runway protester is behind the latest drone shut down.
Officers are scouring Harmondsworth and other villages just half a mile from Europe’s busiest airport for the culprit, and Scotland Yard has launched a ‘full criminal investigation’.
Around 100 flights were delayed as the airport was locked down for an hour on Tuesday evening after a drone was spotted flying nearby.
Drone sightings brought chaos for thousands of passengers at Heathrow airport on last night with all flights grounded for an hour
Planes finally started to take off again shortly after 6.30pm yesterday, but it is unclear how many flights were affected after departures were halted just after 5pm. Pictured: passengers at terminal 5
Yesterday, the first pictures emerged of an object believed to be the drone, which has a flashing green and red light. They were taken by a passenger on a grounded plane and a commuter driving near the airport’s southern boundary.
Another witness reported seeing a drone with the same flashing green and red light hovering near Harmondsworth.
It is one of the villages, alongside Sipson and Longford, to be bulldozed as and when the third runway wins planning permission.
The witness told the BBC: ‘I could tell it was a drone – these things have got quite distinctive lights – not a helicopter’.
In July last year it became a criminal offence to fly a drone within 0.6miles of an airport. Harmondsworth is just half a mile from Heathrow’s northern perimeter.
Anti-Heathrow expansion campaign group Hacan said it had nothing to do with the drone.
Asked whether the mystery drone pilot could be a disgruntled local resident, one campaigner said: ‘It wouldn’t surprise me. Most local residents wouldn’t do this but there are some who might.’
Last night campaign groups Stop Heathrow Expansion and No 3rd Runway also said they had nothing to do with the drones.
It is not yet clear whether the drone incursion was deliberate – but with the operator of the drone which brought chaos to Gatwick still at large, police cannot rule out a link.
The travel chaos comes just weeks after passengers were stuck on planes for several hours and were forced to sleep on floors inside Gatwick Airport as flights were cancelled between December 19 and 21. Pictured: webcam footage from the airport yesterday evening
The alleged sighting came four days after both Heathrow (pictured) and Gatwick airports reported they were investing millions of pounds in equipment to prevent future flight disruption
Police confirmed it was not a hoax sighting, stressing that officers were among those who spotted a drone.
Extra officers have been sent to Heathrow, as airports around the country were put on high alert.
The RAF has flown in its own anti-drone system to Heathrow after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling spoke to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Heathrow has also begun talks to install a £10million detection and signal jamming system called Auds.
Will Geddes of security service International Corporate Protection said the incident was ‘inevitable’ and security should have been upgraded sooner.
He added: ‘I continue to be utterly astounded that there were no counter measures already in place.’
Last night the Department for Transport rejected claims that the military-grade anti-drones system should have been installed sooner.
Aviation minister Baroness Sugg and security minister Ben Wallace will hold a meeting with airport bosses today to discuss plans to crack down on the drone menace.