The UK public will expect the country’s airports to invest in anti-drone measures following the London Gatwick Airport incident in December, the country’s Defense Secretary said.

“I think that everyone would be expecting all airports to be having this detection, and deterrence effect also, at all commercial airports in the future,” Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said. “It is a logical thing for them to be investing [in].”

He added that UK airports should not expect the country’s armed forces to step in to provide anti-drone equipment, as happened at Gatwick after some 140,000 travelers had their flights delayed or canceled after drones were repeatedly and deliberately flown over the runway. Police have so far made no arrests in connection with the incidents, which lasted from Dec. 19-21, 2018.

Since then, Gatwick has said it has spent several million pounds to install its own technology; London Heathrow has said it, too, is investing in anti-drone measures.

“Airports have been and are investing in technology to detect drones and have a range of measures in place to keep airports safe if a drone flies within an exclusion zone,” the UK Department for Transport said Jan. 11. “They are being guided by government stakeholders to ensure they are spending money on the right technology to deliver the safety that the traveling public deserve. The Home Office—the UK ministry responsible for law and order—will also be pushing forward with the testing and evaluation of new technology to detect and counter drones, as well as considering whether new laws are required to allow the use and testing of such technology.”

The UK Airport Operators Association (AOA) held a meeting with Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg and Security Minister Ben Wallace in London Jan. 11 on the drone problem. An AOA spokesman said he could not go into detail over what was discussed.

However, in a statement, AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “In light of events at Gatwick and Heathrow, airports are working closely together to see what lessons can be learned. This includes reviewing the technology that is already in use, what is available further and what deterrent action, such as increased police patrols, can be taken.

“We are having an ongoing dialogue with the government on this as well. It was welcome to see that the government has listened to UK airports and ... announced measures that will extend the no-drone zones around airports to approximately 5km.” The new rules expanding no-drone zones were unveiled Jan. 7.

“Enforcement will be vital for these new rules to be effective and we look forward to working with the Home Office and the police on ensuring the right resources and technology is in place to support this,” Dee continued. “We believe that the Government should now also move quickly to introduce mandatory geo-fencing technology. This would safeguard critical airspace around airports from accidental drone incursions and allow airports, police and other authorities to focus fully on preventing the malicious use of drones.”

Alan Dron