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UPDATE 15:00(UK)/10:00(ET): Gatwick Airport is still closed and is expected to remain closed until at least 19:00(UK)/14:00(ET)
London’s Gatwick Airport is currently closed and is expected to remain closed until at least 11:00(UK)/06:00(ET) because of a drone incursion that has been going on for over 12 hours.
Initial reports suggested that two drones crossed Gatwick’s perimeter fence and flew over the airfield at around 21:00(UK)/16:00(ET) yesterday but police are now saying that it’s just a single drone that’s keeping the airport closed.
Gatwick Airport has confirmed that the drone has “appeared and disappeared” on multiple occasions over the past 12 hours meaning that over 2,000 flights have been grounded (so far) and over 10,000 passengers inconvenienced.
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) December 20, 2018
Incoming flights have been diverted to other airports (and not just UK airports – Paris and Amsterdam have accepted flights) and, if it wasn’t already obvious, it is now generally accepted that this is a deliberate action to cause as much chaos at Gatwick as possible…and it’s working.
20 police units from two separate police forces are currently hunting for the drone operator and Gatwick Airport has confirmed that the reason the drone hasn’t been shot out of the sky (so far) is because “of the risk of stray bullets”.
Here’s what the law has to say about flying drones (per dronesafe.co.uk):
- It is illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary
- Flying above 400ft (120m) – which increases the risk of a collision with a manned aircraft – is also illegal
- Endangering the safety of an aircraft is a criminal offence which can carry a prison sentence of five years
I’d like to know just how low and fast the drone is flying to make the police fear “stray bullets”.
I get that it’s probably inadvisable to start shooting at a small flying object in the hours of darkness but it’s daylight in the UK now so the drone should (a) be easier to see and (b) should be easier to track.
Whatever the outcome here this is very bad news for travelers…and not just travelers heading to/from London Gatwick today.
A single drone has now kept a major airport closed for over 11 hours (and the airport will remain closed for at least a total of 13 hours) so this is almost certainly going to give other idiots the idea to do the same thing.
Whatever reason this drone operator has for causing chaos at Gatwick he/she has just shown the world how easy it can be to cause a huge amount of disruption to a significant number of people….and others are bound to try to copy this.
LAX? Schiphol? Heathrow?
Can you imagine the chaos if a group of people get together to do this at multiple locations at the same time?
Right now we really need the police to catch whoever is behind this drone incursion at Gatwick and then we need them to throw the book at him/her and make sure they’re put away for a long as the law permits (presumably 5 years).
Anything less and we’ll be opening ourselves up to a situation where any idiot with a drone, with nothing better to do and with an attention-seeking personality, will feel free to do exactly what’s being done right now.