back to article Southend Airport tests drone detection system

Southend Airport has trialled an anti-drone system – though its air traffic control boss cheerfully admitted the airport doesn’t have any “outstanding issues with ‘rogue’ drone operations”. Metis Aerospace’s Skyperion product, which was the one tested at Southend this week, is billed as working through a combination of radio …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "a careless drone operator otherwise obeying the letter of the law shouldn’t be flying above 400ft"

    Whereas a careful drone operator who knows the letter of law and is flying under CAP658 knows that there is no such limit, unless the aircraft weighs more than 7kg:

    "4.2.2 Article 166 – Small unmanned aircraft

    ‘(1) A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached

    to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger

    persons or property.

    (2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if

    reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.

    (3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided

    visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to

    other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of

    avoiding collisions.

    (4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than

    7 kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or

    attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft:

    (a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic

    control unit has been obtained;

    (b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air

    traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such

    air traffic control unit has been obtained; or

    (c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in

    airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the

    requirements for that airspace."

    Also, when flying under the FPV exemption, the max altitude is 1000ft:

    "4) The person in charge must not fly the SUA:

    a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless permission of the appropriate air traffic control

    unit has been obtained;

    b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic

    control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless permission of any such air traffic control

    unit has been obtained;

    c) at a height of more than 1,000 feet above the surface (see Note 3);"

  2. macjules Silver badge

    A relatively quiet hub ..

    A relatively quiet hub which, rather implausibly, likes to bill itself as “London Southend Airport” in spite of being around 40 miles from the capital,

    You might say the same about London Stansted, London Oxford Airport , London Ashford Airport or even London Biggin Hill Airport.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: A relatively quiet hub ..

      Doesn't Luton have aspirations of considering itself to be a "London" airport as well?

      1. bobsmith2016

        Re: A relatively quiet hub ..

        I was going to say. Gatwick and Stansted are a similar distance from central London to Southend (according to Google Maps), and no-one seems to have an issue calling them 'London' airports.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: A relatively quiet hub ..

          >and no-one seems to have an issue calling them 'London' airports.

          That's probably why HS2 doesn't really connect with Birmingham International Airport, as if it did the journey time would probably be much shorter than the time to some other 'London' airports and we can't possibly have Birmingham airport describe itself as "London Birmingham International Airport"...

  3. John H Woods Silver badge

    re: "in spite of being around 40 miles from the capital"

    So, the same distance as London Stansted? In fact I think even "London" Luton Airport is nearer to Trafalgar square. And, unless you want to crawl down the A23 and knock off about 10 miles, London Gatwick is about the same distance.

    EDIT: macjules beat me to it.

  4. tomban

    Trafalgar Square

    Just for fun, distance from Trafalgar Square to the London Airports, as the crow flies:

    London City: 7.3 Miles

    Heathrow: 14.4 Miles

    Gatwick: 24.7 Miles

    Luton: 27.4 Miles

    Stanstead: 30.6 Miles

    Southend: 35.8 Miles

    Lydd: 60 Miles

    Manston: 65 Miles

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Trafalgar Square

      Provided the crow doesn't hit a drone on the way...

    2. SteveK

      Re: Trafalgar Square

      Not forgetting London Oxford at 56 miles.

      1. Andy 73

        Re: Trafalgar Square

        I fly from London Glasgow.. to avoid the crowds.

    3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Trafalgar Square

      London International Airport (YXU). About 3,600 miles.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trafalgar Square

      Low cost flights to "Oslo" might have the destination of Torp Sandefjord Airport - 68 miles (110 km) from Oslo.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Trafalgar Square

      Which begs the question - why is Ryanair flying to Stansted (30 miles from London)? One would expect them to be flying from "London" Manston (65 miles from London)?

      1. Wyrdness

        Re: Trafalgar Square

        A bit difficult since Manston closed in 2014.

  5. John Lilburne

    “We do not have any outstanding issues ..."

    But, but, but ... isn't Southend-on-Sea chav centrral.

    1. bobsmith2016

      Re: “We do not have any outstanding issues ..."

      As an Essex boy, I can tell you they're much classier than Basildon types. They drink Fosters rather than White Lightning for starters...

  6. 89724105418769278590284I9405670349743096734346773478647852349863592355648544996313855148583659264921 Bronze badge

    Armed with Frikkin Laser Beams!

    Imagine this armed and running towards you:

  7. Milton

    Multi-mode detection, anyone?

    I've not investigated this in detail but I'm slightly surprised that no one is touting a multi-mode appraoch to this. Drones are hard to detect with primary radar like the plan-position stuff used at airports, but other radars can spot them. Drones are hard to see visually in many circumstances, being small, fleet, and possibly lost in cloud or fog. Their IR emissions are faint and sometimes less conspicuous than birds. And the sound they make can get lost in the background, especially near airports for obvious reasons.

    But, they do tend to make a distinctive noise which, I'm guessing, could be discriminated using a combination of area- and directional-mics rigged to some good filtering electronics and software. I'd be very surprised if the sound alone isn't enough to allow a good system sometimes to identify a drone's make and model. (Think: the discrimination of a modern sub's sonar system, albeit water is a far better medium for sound than air.)

    Synthesise an audio detection system with primary radar optimised for small objects, plus an IR capability and hi-def cameras with pattern recognition, and finally, get your software trained to distinguish the difference between the way birds typically fly (lots of continuous movement, soaring, swooping turns) and the way drones move (tendency to hover, abrupt course reversals, steep altitude gains for minimal distance covered etc). None of these would be near perfect but taken together they could be powerful inded.

    I would expect that in due course you'd have a very effective drone tracking suite. The beauty of a synthesis approach (for once, an ideal software project for machine learning) is that you'd be able to assign fairly reliable threat estimates to incursions, ranging from say "30% possibility of drone intrusion 500m+ west of runway 28R" to "Confirmed hobby-scale drone 80m ASL over Queen's Building". Trend recording is also useful: a threat estimate which steadily increases should attract greater priority than one which stutters improbably. (Example: four unconfirmed estimates which fit a constant-bearing-decreasing-range model should be more worrying than four unconfirmed estimates jumping all over the place at extreme range.)

    It'll be interesting to see how this all unfolds, anyway.

  8. Dom 3

    Great place.

    Station platform to departure gate is about the same distance as Stansted forces you to endure the duty-free for. And there's a Vulcan parked up.

  9. Psyphr Guy

    I’m just saying..

    “ Pilots, however, do have a tendency to report any strange item floating around the skies as a “drone”, even in conditions where the object is more likely to be a plastic bag or a balloon”

    Or Alien spacecraft?! Conveniently omitted from the list, although admittedly there’s a ‘slightly’ higher chance of it being a plastic bag than ET doing a bit of plane gazing.

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