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Drone chaos: Gatwick airport closed for 32 hours delaying 126,000 passengers!

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An unknown person or people has caused chaos in London after flying several ‘industrial’ drones multiple times across Gatwick airport runways.

British media report that the airport, which is located 50 miles south of London city, was shut for nearly 32 hours following repeated drone sightings in and around the area.

Airport authorities believe there is a concerted effort by an individual or group to cause “maximum disruption” to flights. This has forced the airport to cancel takeoffs and divert incoming flights to other airports. The culprits are not believed to be motivated by terrorism but the motives for their epically stupid and dangerous behaviour remain unknown.

More than 800 flights were cancelled affecting at least 126,000 people. With just a few days til Christmas, Gatwick, the second busiest UK airport, was experiencing one of its busiest days of the year.

Some passengers were forced to sleep on the airport floor as they waited for the flights to resume.

Yesterday, Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate released a statement published on Facebook :

“On behalf of everyone at Gatwick I would like to repeat how sorry we are for the inconvenience this criminal behaviour has caused passengers and we share their real anger and frustration that it has happened…”

“It cannot be right that drones can close a vital part of our national infrastructure in this way. This is obviously a relatively new technology and we need to think through together the right solutions to make sure it cannot happen again. ”

Gatwick Airport, South of London.

Why can’t they find the culprit?

20 police units from two forces in the area were unable to locate the person illegally operating their drones. Such is the scale of the disruption that the Britsh Army was dispatched to try to use their special equipment to disable the drone, should it appear again.

Because the drones were larger than average, the pilot could be controlling the drone several miles away from the airport. This makes the job of locating the pilot or pilots a tricky task for authorities.

Police are reviewing footage from Gatwick CCTV cameras to try to identify the make and model of the drone. According to reporting by The Guardian, the drone is larger than a normal consumer variety and may have been customised.

Why this is a big deal

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to fly drones within one kilometre (.6 miles) of an airport boundary. In the US, you cannot fly within five miles of an airport without consent from the airport operator or control tower.

Stories of drones flying near airports have become so routine that many in the drone community roll their eyes when another incident occurs. Last year in the UK there were 92 near-misses between planes and drones recorded.

The world has been highly fortunate that, until this point in time, no commercial aircraft has crashed as the result of drone activity. Consumer drones have, however, on many occasions caused flight delays and airport shutdowns. It would be naive to think that a major international airport being shut for more than a day as a result of a drone will not have significant ramifications for an industry still in its infancy.

The British Transport Secretary has opened up the flying restrictions allowing more planes to fly by night in order to clear the excess of passengers at Gatwick. He made a statement saying that the perpetrators of this crime should face “the maximum possible custodial sentence” for the damage they had done.

“This is clearly a very serious ongoing incident in which substantial drones have been used to bring about the temporary closure of a major international airport,” he said.

We should absolutely expect some additional law changes and regulations surrounding the use of drones as a result of this incident. We hope the perpetrator or group responsible are caught as soon as possible.

As with many things in life, it only takes a few idiots to spoil a party.

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