UK Gatwick Airport halts flights again after new report of drone

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UK Gatwick Airport halts flights again after new report of drone
Passengers wait in the queue for check-in in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport on Friday.

London - Gatwick's drone nightmare is thought to be the most disruptive yet at a major airport.

By Reuters

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Published: Fri 21 Dec 2018, 10:25 PM

Last updated: Sat 22 Dec 2018, 12:28 AM

London's Gatwick Airport suspended flights on Friday just hours after reopening following a 36-hour closure which stranded more than 120,000 Christmas travellers when a mystery saboteur used drones to play cat-and-mouse with police snipers.
Services had resumed at UK's second busiest airport early on Friday after suffering its worst disruption since a volcanic ash cloud grounded flights across much of Europe in 2010. Then just 11 hours later they were halted again after reports of another drone flying in the area.
"We have temporarily suspended airfield operations as we investigate the unconfirmed reports of another drone," an airport spokeswoman said. "Nothing is taking off or landing at the moment."
Britain deployed unidentified military technology to guard the airport against what transport minister Chris Grayling said were thought to be several drones. "This kind of incident is unprecedented anywhere in the world," he said. The motivation of the drone operator, or operators, was unclear. Police said there was nothing to suggest the crippling of one of Europe's busiest airports was a terrorist attack.
Gatwick's drone nightmare is thought to be the most disruptive yet at a major airport and indicates a new vulnerability that will be scrutinised by security forces and airport operators across the world.
The army and police snipers were called in to hunt down the drones, thought to be industrial-style craft, which flew near the airport every time authorities tried to reopen it on Thursday.
The perpetrator has not yet been detained but the police said they had a number of possible suspects. No group has claimed responsibility publicly and police said there was no evidence another state was involved. Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said they were keeping an open mind about who was responsible.
"In terms of the motivation, there's a whole spectrum of possibilities, from the really high-end criminal behaviour that we've seen, all the way down to potentially, just individuals trying to be malicious, trying to disrupt the airport," he said.
After a boom in sales, unmanned aerial vehicles have become a growing menace at airports.
In Britain, the number of near misses between private drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year. The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) said it understood "detection and tracking equipment" had been installed around Gatwick's perimeter.
BALPA said that it was extremely concerned at the risk of a drone collision. Flying drones within 1 km of a British airport boundary is punishable by five years in prison. The defence ministry refused to comment on what technology was deployed but drone experts said airports needed to deploy specialist radar reinforced by thermal imaging technology to detect such unmanned flying vehicles.

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