Sunday 22 September 2019

Gatwick Airport chaos: Two people arrested in connection with 'criminal use of drones'

Queues of passengers in the check in area at Gatwick Airport when the airport was closed after drones were spotted over the airfield Photo: Thomas Hornall/PA Wire
Queues of passengers in the check in area at Gatwick Airport when the airport was closed after drones were spotted over the airfield Photo: Thomas Hornall/PA Wire
People wait in the departures area at Gatwick airport (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
The arrivals board at Gatwick Airport this morning, showing cancelled, diverted and delayed flights, as the airport remains closed after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning. Photo: Thomas Hornall/PA Wire
People wait in the departures area at Gatwick airport . (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Gatwick airport remains closed this morning after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
No fly zone: Passengers caught in the Gatwick chaos wait for more information. Picture: Getty
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport which has been closed after drones were spotted over the airfield Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers stranded queue for information at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Alexander Britton

Two people have been arrested in connection with the "criminal use of drones" which has caused widespread disruption to flights at Gatwick Airport.

Sussex Police said a man and a woman were detained by officers "in the Gatwick area" at around 10pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport said on Saturday morning that the runway was open but urged passengers to check with their airline before travelling.

Flights from the UK's second biggest airport were grounded for more than a day after devices were spotted inside the perimeter on Wednesday at around 9pm.

The airport fully reopened on Friday after tens of thousands of passengers had their travel plans disrupted, with police saying "proactive investigations" are ongoing.

Superintendent James Collis of Sussex Police said: "As part of our ongoing investigations into the criminal use of drones which has severely disrupted flights in and out of Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police made two arrests just after 10pm on 21 December.

"Our investigations are still ongoing, and our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones by deploying a range of tactics.

"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."

Flights were briefly grounded at the airport on Friday evening after a fresh sighting at around 5.10pm, but military measures reassured operators it was safe to reopen the runway shortly afterwards.

Despite flights resuming after 70 minutes, airlines were still cancelling and delaying outbound flights into Friday night.

Inbound flights were also operating with delays, with some scheduled to arrive at Gatwick in the early hours of Saturday.

Military equipment was used on Friday to stop further drone disruption while a range of tactics are in place if any unmanned aircraft are seen inside the perimeter.

One piece of equipment believed to have been deployed at the airport is the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar.

It can also jam communications between the drone and its operator, enabling authorities to take control of and land the drone.

Speaking on Friday, 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".

He added: "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.

"It cannot be right that drones can close a vital part of our national infrastructure in this way.

"This is obviously a relatively new technology and we need to think through together the right solutions to make sure it cannot happen again."

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