All flights departing Heathrow Airport in London were briefly suspended on Tuesday following a drone sighting near the airport, less than a month after another drone incident shut down neighboring Gatwick International for 36 hours.
Departures were paused as a "precaution" shortly after 5 p.m. UK time, according to , with police responding to "reports of a sighting of a drone in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport." Flights later resumed as normal at 6:15 p.m. local time, per the report.
A spokesperson for Heathrow, the UK's busiest airport, told :
"We are currently responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow and are working closely with the Met police to prevent any threat to operational safety. As a precautionary measure, we have stopped departures while we investigate. We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause.”
The momentary pause on Heathrow's runways comes just a few weeks after a mysterious drone sighting stymied all air traffic at Gatwick Airport during the height of holiday travel for roughly 36 hours. The incident prompted a response from police and military alike, although authorities armed with signal-jamming instruments were unable to thwart the rogue aircraft's path as it canceled 1,000 flights and affected the travels of some 140,000 passengers.
The Gatwick drone episode proved confounding for a number of reasons, largely because authorities had no specific protocol for dealing with the UAV in such a sensitive environment. UK police have since been given more extensive powers to deal with interloping drones, which them if deemed a threat.
In the case of Gatwick's drone debacle, no suspects have been charged, and authorities are contending with a substantial dearth of evidence pointing to potential culprits.