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UK Police given new powers to deal with drones following Gatwick Airport chaos




The 36 hours of mass disruption that befell Gatwick Airport in December have led to British police being granted new powers to land, seize and search drones.

Between December 19th and 21st, 140,000 travellers were delayed and 1000 flights diverted or cancelled after 115 claimed to have seen drones flying near the airport. The total cost of the delays to the airlines is expected to run into the ten of millions of pounds.

The Guardian reports the government had announced a new suite of powers to police and extends the exclusion zone (area in which drones are forbidden from flying) around the airport. From 30 November this year, drones weighing between 250 grams and 20 kg will be required to register and take an online drone pilot competency test.

We previously reported that in August the United Kingdom spent millions of pounds on buying Israeli anti-drone technology to deploy at key sites around the UK. During the disruption, the British Army was brought to the airport and the Israeli drone jammers put into operation.

To date, no suspects are in custody. A couple who were suspected of involvement were held by police in December but released without charge. The lack of suspects, three weeks after the incident has led some to speculate whether there was ever a drone at all. Police have countered this narrative by stating many of the witnesses were police, armed forces and even a pilot on the scene. The difficulty in locating the drone is claimed to be due to the large area surrounding the airport and the many potential locations the pilot or pilots may have been hiding during the ordeal.

British transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has stated that the disruption at Gatwick was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated” and that those involved should face “the maximum possible custodial sentence”.

As this story continues to develop, we will endeavour to keep you up to date with the latest.

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