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UPDATE: Gatwick airport reopens with military on site. Two suspects in custody!




The UK’s Gatwick Airport reopened again today after being shut for more than 36 hours following multiple drone sightings around the airport grounds.

Read our coverage of this incident from yesterday here. 

It wasn’t long after the reopening until a drone made a reappearance and flights had to once more be put on hold. This time the flights were resumed after just an hour.

The latest on this story (and we’re getting constant updates) is that two suspects are now in custody but we know little about them or their motives.

It appears they made repeated deliberate attempts to cause maximum disruption to flights. Yesterday we told you that during the shutdown, the drone pilot or pilots had caused some 126,000 passengers delays and hundreds of flights had to be redirected to other airports around the UK.

Police and military were stationed at the airport armed with drone signal jammers, trackers and even shotguns and airport authorities believe, with these precautions in place, planes will safe to fly.

The Guardian reports that the British Airlines Pilots’ Association was unhappy with the move to reopen before the perpetrator had been caught because a drone could still pose a risk to aeroplanes outside of the immediate airport zone. It appears that the pressure of so many people waiting to get to their destination forced Gatwick’s Airport’s hand, however.

The rogue drones delayed more than 100,000 people’s flights for more than a day causing enormous angst just before Christmas.

Who is flying these drones and what is their motive?

Police were working on the assumption that there was more than one drone in operation. Whoever has committed these acts (which will likely be revealed shortly) somehow avoided being caught for several days, even with world media attention and a large contingent of police and military now at the scene. This fact led the Defence Editor for The Economist, Shashank Joshi, to tell the BBC during an interview:

“What’s very clear is, if they’re able to evade the level of capabilities we’ve now seen deployed by the full spectrum of the British state, we’re talking about a reasonably sophisticated operator.”

Media outlets have been speculating on a variety of possibilities as to who the drone pilot or pilots might be. One theory reported by British tabloid, The Daily Mail was that this was a stunt carried out by environmental activists. Until now, no evidence for that theory has been provided although Sussex police (the local precinct) has stated that environmental protest is a line of enquiry they are investigating.

Other theories include that this was a Russian plot to cause havoc in the UK at Christmas or simply a lone-wolf thrill-seeker who gets off on causing chaos.

Unfortunately, as it currently stands, we will have to wait for further evidence to be presented before we can make a conclusion.

No – this was not a conspiracy

Multiple people have contacted us via Instagram or Facebook to ask whether this is legit and some have argued this may be terror-related or somehow a conspiracy theory. It almost seems silly to have to address such questions but this is the world we inhabit in 2018.

Terrorism seems very unlikely, given that, other than causing a lot of people consternation and inconvenience, no one has been otherwise harmed. There are far better ways of causing terror than flying a drone around an airport. As to this being some sort of conspiracy to… I don’t know, take people’s drones away? – That is preposterous. Gatwick airport will have lost countless millions of dollars, not to mention annoying 126,000 people and involving the police, army and media. Where exactly would an anti-drone agenda be coming from? Always remember – in these sort of situations, it’s good practice to apply Occam’s razor. That is: if there are two competing theories, you should probably favour the one involving the least speculation. In other words, some idiot flying their drone to cause disruption is a lot more likely than a secret conspiracy to take people’s drones away.

What’s next?

Due to the scale of the disruption from this incident, we imagine there will be much stronger prevention mechanisms put in place by international airports. We cannot have a situation where major transport hubs are regularly shut down by consumer drones. If incidences like this continue to occur, we can expect major new restrictions on drone usage in the near future.

Once again – we hope the perpetrators brought to justice for the crimes they have committed – particularly the endangerment of people’s lives – and for the good of the drone community.

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