'Military capability' at Gatwick airport.

Airports Must Rely On Anti-Drone Technology, Not RAF, Says Defence Secretary

It comes after the military was recently called in to the UK's two busiest airports after drone sightings caused flights to be grounded.

'Military capability' at Gatwick airport.

Military equipment at Gatwick during three-days of disruption towards the end of last year.

All the UK airports must buy anti-drone equipment because the RAF should not have to step in every time the devices are flown near runways, according to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. 

Technology which can detect and deter the gadgets is a "logical thing" for airports to invest in, Mr Williamson said.

The military has been called in to the UK's two busiest airports in recent weeks after drone sightings caused flights to be grounded.

Departures at Heathrow were suspended for an hour on Tuesday night, while the travel plans of 140,000 Gatwick passengers were affected over three days shortly before Christmas.

Both airports have said they will invest millions of pounds to tackle the threat from drones.

Gatwick Airport during the drone disruption.
Drone disruption at Gatwick affected more than 140,000 passengers.

A system which can detect, track and ground the devices has been installed on the roof of Gatwick's South Terminal following last month's chaos.

Around 10 of Britain's busiest airports, such as the main London airports, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, all told the ministers in a meeting that they have drone detection equipment in place or are planning to install it, according to the Press Association.

Speaking on a visit to RAF Marham, where he announced nine F-35Bs are ready for combat, Mr Williamson 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.

"It is a logical thing for them to be investing [in].

"It wouldn't be right to expect the RAF to be the people that are constantly stepping in on this."

Simon Newton Drone Footage 16/01/18

Civil Aviation Authority figures show 120 near misses between drones and aircraft were reported in the year to 4 December 2018, up 29% on the total of 93 in the whole of 2017.

There were just six incidents recorded in 2014.

On Tuesday, the Government announced a package of measures designed to give police extra powers to combat drones.

The exclusion zone around airports will be extended to approximately a 5km-radius (3.1 miles). This is expected to come into force by the start of April.

From November 30, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will be required to register and take an online drone pilot competency test.

Police will also be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences to ensure immediate and effective enforcement of the new rules.