A successful trial of a ground-breaking drone surveillance system has taken place at London Southend Airport this week, the first of its kind in the UK.
IPS is combining its skills with the METIS Aerospace SKYPERION technology to develop a suitable solution for integration into airports.
This system not only spots drones much sooner than previously possible and allows them to be tracked, but it also identifies exactly where the operator is located (offering the possibility of them being apprehended), something which has previously been almost impossible.
Rogue drone operations are becoming an increasing issue for UK airports with upwards of 3 to 4 sightings of ‘rogue’ drones per week in the London airspace area alone.
Drones are readily available from High Street shops and can be flown within a few minutes of purchasing, and although they have many lawful uses they can also be easily adapted to carry a range of payloads, from cameras to explosives.
Due to the size and colour of most drones, they are very difficult to spot, however, if one is sighted near the critical part of an airport operation (such as the final approach to the runway) then the only option is to completely stop operations.
This most notably happened at Gatwick in July 2017, which led to delays for thousands of passengers and considerable costs to the airport.
Damon Knight, head of London Southend Airport Air Traffic Services said: “We do not have any outstanding issues with ‘rogue’ drone operations at London Southend, but we have had some sightings near the airport which fortunately have not affected our operations.
“However, we recognise that there is a wider problem for the aviation industry and so, as an airport, we have been very involved in understanding how we can deal with the issue and helping to explore ways to coordinate drone activity in the existing aviation operational framework.”
He added: “After being introduced to IPS and METIS and witnessing a live demonstration of their drone surveillance system we recognised the huge potential of the system for the whole aviation industry and so, therefore, invited both companies to undertake a trial in an operational environment here at London Southend.”
The purpose of the week-long trial was to demonstrate and test the ability of the IPS-METIS SKYPERION Solution to monitor, detect, track and record the activity of RPAS - Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems - better known as drones, in the vicinity of London Southend Airport.
A series of ‘tame’ drones were deployed near the airport in order to test how the equipment worked in an ‘as live’ situation.
The equipment involves two airfield sensors which offer 360-degree coverage up to 4kms - in all weathers, 24 hours a day – feeding back real-time information to a control ‘station’ located with the Air Traffic Control team.
Tony Burnell, CEO METIS Aerospace Ltd commented: “We are very grateful to London Southend to allow IPS and METIS the opportunity to prove the SKYPERION technology in their operational environment.
“We are looking forward to continuing the forward-thinking relationship with London Southend to develop SKYPERION for integration into Air Traffic Systems.”
Ansar Ali, Chairman of IPS Limited added “We are proud to be working in partnership with Tony Burnell and the team at METIS Aerospace, and we are grateful to Damon Knight at London Southend Airport for facilitating the proving trial at London Southend.
“We are delighted with the success of the trial and we look forward to working with users, regulators and other stakeholders in further developing the system, in order to provide enhanced safety, security and business continuity at airfields and other critical locations.”
Glyn Jones, chief executive officer of Stobart Aviation, owners of London Southend Airport. said: “When we heard about the potential benefits of this new technology for the whole aviation industry we were only too pleased for London Southend to lead the way and help in trialling it.
“We are delighted this week has been a success and look forward to seeing where this project goes next.”
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