Rogue drones sightings close to Heathrow airport, UK are in news yet again. According to reports from the BBC, 38-year-old George Rusu has been charged with flying a drone near Heathrow on Christmas Eve; only days after a scare at Gatwick grounded more than 1,000 flights.
The suspected drone flight happened just three days after Gatwick fully reopened on December 21 following three days of chaos affecting some 140,000 passengers.
Court documents revealed that Mr Rusu used a drone on a field near the runway at Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, on 24 December. Mr Rusu, of Blunts Avenue in Hillingdon, appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and was charged with flying a “small unmanned aircraft without permission of air traffic control”. Hundreds of passengers had their journeys disrupted due to sightings of a drone grounded flights at Heathrow for around one hour on 8 January. Police officers were among those who spotted the device in an area northwest of the airport, close to the M25 motorway. A criminal investigation was launched immediately by the Metropolitan Police following the suspected drone flight.
Deputy District Judge Robert Roscoe at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court spared the dad-of-one jail but fined him £2,000, told him to pay a £200 victim surcharge and £85 costs, and ordered his drone be destroyed. In sentencing, Roscoe said, “to my mind, the word reckless seems to be appropriate. It was stupid of you, to say the very least. You didn’t engage with your brain to think about the consequences of what you were doing.”
Reports from the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) safety body have identified 18 near misses between aircraft and drones across the country between July and October 2018. The UKAB said 12 of the incidents took place in Greater London.
Anti-rogue drone efforts are ongoing with officials at both Heathrow and Gatwick revealing investment of millions of pounds in equipment to prevent future flight disruption and the Department of Transport reporting their plans to introduce new police powers and safety rules to tackle the misuse of drones.
There have been no arrests in the investigation into the Gatwick drone sightings since a couple from Crawley in west Sussex were released without charge shortly before Christmas.