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9 February 2016

Metropolitan Police Spy Planes and UAV Research

From Alan Turnbull,

Metropolitan Police Spy Planes and UAV research

The existence of a fleet of spy planes operated by the Metropolitan Police
and based at Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire, using fake front companies,
is well established.


for background, which also covers the famous MI5 spy planes based at RAF

The Met Police spy planes include G-BFIB, G-BVJT, G-RHYM, G-TDSA, G-UKAL,

The Met Police have been running fake companies Nor Leasing and Aero Lease
UK for many years, out of virtual offices based in branches of Mail Boxes
Etc shops on high streets. They were preceded by an aerial surveillance
outfit called Grantex Aviation, whose website is still to this day listed as
"under construction" and was registered in 2009 by a Met Police employee
William Johnston. Very early use of the spy planes was to track weapons
smuggling by the IRA along the coast of mainland UK and obviously operations
against the international drugs trade.

No companies by the names Nor Leasing, Aero Lease UK or Grantex Aviation are
listed at Companies House. William Johnston went on to be listed against the
CAA registration for G-TDSA for Nor Leasing.

An informant tells me that within Met Police circles, G-TDSA was nicknamed
"TDSA - The Dog's bollocks Spy Aircraft". Rather apocryphal though.

MI5 use three Britten Norman Islanders (registrations ZH536, ZH537, ZF573)
to circle over cities vacuuming up mobile phone signals and matching voice
biometrics against known terrorist targets.

The Met Police spy planes are suspected of being involved in similar
exercises to complement the Islander coverage. Flight patterns recorded on
Flight Radar 24 over the last couple of years certainly seem to point to

The spy planes are also thought to be hired on specific military signals
projects for the RAF. They even broadcast alternate Mode S transponder codes
when on the special RAF projects, reverting to their well established
"civilian" codes afterwards. These projects tend to be undertaken by 2 Excel
Aviation (a real company formed by ex-RAF personnel, owners of G-BFIB,

Additionally, the 2 Excel planes seem to be involved in software and
hardware testing of emergency collision avoidance equipment, based on
advanced usage of ADS-B Mode S transponders.

I have my own Mode S transponder virtual radar system which regularly tracks
the MI5, Met Police and 2 Excel planes, either circling Manchester at
5000-10,000ft or refuelling at Manchester International Airport (I live
nearby). The 2 Excel planes are notable because of the massive number of
Mode S signal transmissions per flight.

After a regular routine refresh of my research data, I happened upon the
fact that Aero Lease UK had changed the registration details logged with the
CAA for their G-UKAL plane. Rather than the Mail Boxes shop, it is now
registered at Cranfield University's Airfield in Bedfordshire. The office
address is exactly the same as that given for Cranfield Aerospace whose key
commercial product is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle going by the name CASSIUS.

Food for thought.