Gatwick says some flights resuming after drone disruption

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.

After the biggest disruption at Gatwick, Britain's second busiest, since a volcanic ash cloud in 2010, Gatwick said its runway was open and that a limited number of aircraft were scheduled for departure and arrival.

"Gatwick's runway is currently available and a limited number of aircraft are scheduled for departure and arrival," the airport said.

"Gatwick continues to advise passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before traveling to the airport as departures and arrivals will be subject to delays and cancellations."

Britain called in the military and police snipers to hunt down the drone and its operator, who flew what is thought to be an industrial style drone near the airport every time it tried to reopen.

Flights were halted on Wednesday night after two drones were spotted near the airfield.

It is illegal to fly drones within 1 km of a British airport boundary, punishable by five years in prison.

Watch: Expert weighs in on the challenges and regulatory hurdles in the world of drones.

A drone expert discusses the challenges and regulatory hurdles in the world of drones. Eric Sazcuk is an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain's Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield. 1:38

The drone sightings caused misery for tens of thousands of travellers who were stranded at Gatwick, many sleeping on the floor as they searched for alternative routes to holidays and Christmas family gatherings.

Transport minister Chris Grayling lifted night-flying restrictions at other airports to ease congestion caused by diverted aircraft.

Police Detective Chief Supt. Jason Tingley said that "our assessment, based upon the information that we have available to us, is that this incident is not terrorism-related."

Richard Parker, head of the air traffic management technology firm Altitude Angel, said this was the first time a major airport had been hit by such a sustained and deliberate incursion into its airspace.

"It's sophisticated – not from a technology side, but it's organized. People have charged lots of batteries, and are deliberately trying to avoid being caught, probably by driving around to different locations," he told Reuters.

"It really is unprecedented."

Watch: See the chaos at Gatwick during the delays.


With a surge in public enthusiasm for drones, there has been an increase in near-collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets in recent years.

The number of near misses between private drones and aircraft in Britain more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board regulator.

Gatwick, which competes with Europe's busiest airport Heathrow, west of London, had said Sunday would be its busiest day of the festive period.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News