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Aviation

Two arrested over London’s Gatwick airport drone disruption

  • Police say suspects arrested for ‘criminal use of drones’ after three days of disruption in which tens of thousands of people missed flights
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 10:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 8:45pm

London’s Gatwick airport says its runway is open and its operator aims to run a full schedule on Saturday, following days of disruptions due to drones sighted near the flight hub before a busy pre-Christmas weekend.

“Our runway is open and we aim to run a full schedule on Saturday, December 22,” a statement on the airport website said. “Passengers should expect some delays and cancellations as we continue to recover our operations following three days of disruption and are advised to check with their airline before travelling to the airport.”

The announcement came hours after Sussex police announced that two people were arrested late on Friday over the “criminal use of drones” that caused travel chaos for passengers at Gatwick airport.

Police said the two people arrested were a man and a woman and were detained “in the Gatwick area”, Britain’s Press Association reported.

Tens of thousands of passengers were affected and hundreds of flights cancelled during a 36-hour shutdown after the first drones were spotted on Wednesday.

Investigations were still going on, police said.

“Our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones, by deploying a range of tactics,” the statement said.

The incursions have severely affected flight operations at London’s second-largest airport. Tens of thousands of passengers were affected and hundreds of flights cancelled during a 36-hour shutdown after the first drones were sighted on Wednesday.

“We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice,” Sussex police said.

Flights resumed at Gatwick airport on Friday evening despite another sighting of a drone, an airport spokeswoman said, following days of disruptions caused by the devices.

The reopening came after the airport tweeted that “military measures” had been put in place.

“Airfield movements were suspended while we investigated this as safety remains our main priority,” it said. “The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with reassurance necessary to reopen our airfield.”

The drone disruptions have caused travel chaos at Britain’s second-busiest airport.

Regarding the issue of who may have been operating the drones, police said on Friday it was possible hat several people were involved, as they believe multiple drones are being used, PA reported.

Chief executive of the airport Stewart Wingate said the drone flights were “highly targeted” and have “been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run-up to Christmas”.

“These events obviously highlight a wider strategic challenge for aviation in this country which we need to address together with speed – the aviation industry, government and all the other relevant authorities,” the Press Association quoted Wingate as saying. “It cannot be right that drones can close a vital part of our national infrastructure in this way.”

Police have said there is no indication of terrorism.

Flying a drone within 1km (six-tenths of a mile) of an airport or airfield boundary was made illegal in Britain in July, but aviation officials and lawmakers have called for a 5km (three miles) exclusion zone.

The Press Association reported that an Israeli-developed system was in use at Gatwick, which can detect drones via radar and jam communications between a drone and its operator.

Police had also suggested the use of shotguns, but admitted it would probably not be very effective.