Transport

Gatwick airport reopens after drone saboteur sows chaos

Britain’s Gatwick Airport reopened on Friday after a rogue drone saboteur wrought travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of Christmas travellers by playing cat-and-mouse with police snipers and the army. Mia Womersley reports

Britain’s Gatwick airport reopened on Friday (December 21) after a rogue drone saboteur deliberately inflicted chaos for hundreds of thousands of Christmas travellers.

But the culprit still hasn’t been caught.

The operator – or operators – have played cat-and-mouse with police snipers and the army at Britain’s second busiest airport since Wednesday (December 19) night and 120,000 people have had festive travel plans ruined.

Two drones, thought to be industrial-style craft, were spotted near the airfield and the airport shut down.

An air traffic management technology firm told Reuters the disruption was ‘sophisticated, organised, with people charging lots of batteries and deliberately trying to avoid being caught, probably by driving around to different locations.’

The runway opened again on Friday morning with a limited number of planes scheduled to take off and land.

The airport’s COO is ruling out a terrorist attack.

Saying he’s put in ‘additional security measures’ without clarify what those measures were.

GATWICK AIRPORT CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, CHRIS WOODROOFE,

“The police have not apprehended the criminal who has been operating this drone. What has changed is that there are a number of mitigating measures in place provided by a number of government agencies and the military to ensure that I have the confidence to be able to reopen by airport.”

Admitting that the last 36 hours have shown ‘an awful lot more work’ is needed to combat the risk of drones.

It is illegal to fly drones within 0.6 miles of a British airport boundary or higher than 400 feet. You can get five years in prison for it.

There’s been a boom in drone sales over the last few years and an increase in near-collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets.

The number of near misses more than tripled between 2015 and 2017.

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