London’s Gatwick airport drone operators still on the loose after UK police release two suspects

  • Man and women arrested on Friday night for ‘criminal use of drones’ have been set free without charges as they ‘are no longer suspects’
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 7:57pm

A man and a woman arrested over the drone disruption that brought Christmas getaway flights to a standstill at London’s Gatwick Airport were released without charge on Sunday, police said.

A 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman from the town of Crawley, near Britain’s second-busiest airport, were arrested on Saturday.

The police swooped after three days of disruption from Wednesday to Friday, affecting 140,000 passengers.

“Both people have fully cooperated with our enquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick,” Sussex Police detective chief superintendent Jason Tingley said in a statement.

Drones were seen buzzing around the airfield more than 50 times, forcing the government to bring in specialist military resources to help counter the threat.

The dangers posed by drones include the possibility of a device smashing into a plane or being sucked up into an engine where its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

“Our inquiry continues at a pace to locate those responsible for the drone incursions, and we continue to actively follow lines of investigation,” said Tingley. “We ask for the public’s continued support by reporting anything suspicious, contacting us with any information in relation to the drone incidents at Gatwick.”

The airport has offered a £50,000 (US$63,000) reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the disruption.

Under new laws in Britain, drones cannot be flown near aircraft or within 1km (about half a mile) of an airport, or at an altitude above 122 metres (400 feet).

Violators face five years in prison for endangering an aircraft.

Gatwick, around 50km (30 miles) south of the British capital, is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single-runway air hub.

On its website, Gatwick said its runway was open and it aimed to run a full schedule over the weekend.

Passengers were warned to expect some delays and cancellations as their airport tried to recover its operations.

“Safety is Gatwick’s top priority and we are grateful for passengers’ continued patience as we work to get them to their final destination in time for Christmas,” the airport said.