Gatwick Drones Cause Christmas Commute Chaos

Gatwick Drones

Flying within one kilometre of an airport, or at heights of more than 200 metres, is illegal in the UK. 

Tens of thousands of passengers have been affected by drone sightings at Gatwick Airport.  

The runway at Gatwick has been closed after two of the devices were seen nearby. The airport’s chief operating officer, Christ Woodroofe confirmed that drones had been spotted over the airport as recently as 7am.  

Police have said there is “nothing to suggest that this is terrorism-related”, while thousands are left stranded ahead of Christmas.  

Flights Grounded 

The Gatwick runway was closed at 9pm on Wednesday night and was temporarily opened shortly after 3am today. However, the runway was once again shut down due to a further sighting, the airport confirmed.  

Woodroofe told the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4 this morning that around 20 police units were in the process of finding the drone operator.  

“That is the way to disable the drone,” he said. Woodroofe confirmed that a helicopter had also been deployed to assist in the hunt for the disruptive individual.  

Woodroofe also revealed that police had advised against shooting the devices.  

“It would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets,” he said.

Gatwick Airport has previously experienced issues with drones. In July 2017, the runway was closed and flights were diverted after a drone was spotted flying in the vicinity of the airfield.

A number of operators, including EasyJet and London North Eastern Railway (LNER, have offered free flight transfers or alternative modes of transport.  

LNER is offering passengers, whose flights have been cancelled between Edinburgh and Gatwick, free rail travel as an alternative.

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How to Stop Drones 

Legislation has been introduced to limit the use of drones around specific areas, with airports, in particular, enforcing strict exclusion zones of more than one kilometre.

In addition to this, since the 30th of July, it has been illegal to fly a drone over 400ft (200m) to prevent potential collisions between the devices and low flying aircraft.

Read more: Using Drones in Scotland

There are a number of ways that drones can be taken down. Eagles can be used to bring the devices down, a technique that Dutch police have used in the past, while hi-tech ‘drone killers’ can disable them at range.

Earlier this year, HBO revealed it had been using these devices to prevent avid fans from taking pictures of the Game of Thrones set in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the New York Comic Con event, Sophie Turner told Entertainment Weekly that drones had regularly been caught flying over the set. The anti-drone device reportedly looks like a gun and, according to the LA Times, can be “aimed like a rifle or a shotgun at a drone in the air”.

With a range of almost half a mile, these devices have been deployed extensively around film sets and even in Los Angeles for celebrity events.

Read more: Game of Thrones Spoilers Prompt Drone Killer Deployment

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