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Drones cause a shutdown Gatwick Airport

Image: Hunter Desportes

The second largest airport in the UK, Gatwick Airport was shut down and flights cancelled for more than 36 hours due to a drone invasion from Wednesday 19 December 2018 to Friday. The closure and suspension of flights took effect at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday after the airport management observed a couple of drones flying close by.

The Guardian reported that flights resumed briefly on Wednesday around 3 a.m., but the shutdown was later enforced after only 45 minutes when the drones made a reappearance. The army is onsite to assist with what the airport management and the Sussex Police described as a conscious and intentional attempt at grounding flights.

The drones that flew near the runway led to hundreds of flight cancellations affecting thousands of travellers. The airport management reported that at least 110,000 travellers were inconvenienced on the 760 flights cancelled on Thursday alone. Most of these passengers camped in Gatwick overnight waiting for any sliver of good news.

Police say that they have not been able to identify the culprits behind the drone invasion. They, however, have sent out a passionate appeal on Twitter asking anyone that may have information to report on 999.

Flights have resumed on Friday morning, but these are still under the watchful eye of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Though unfortunate and disruptive, events such as happened in Gatwick have unforeseeable outcomes that provide online bookmakers UK with great markets that people who bet on events can place bets on.

The CAA termed the incident as totally unacceptable adding that flying drones this close to an airport amounts to flagrant disrespect of the law and can lead to severe penalties including a prison sentence. Currently, the UK law forbids flying a drone within a kilometre of an airport unless one gets explicit permission to do so.

Anyone caught piloting such drones so close to the airport are liable to up to five years’ imprisonment. However, it is still not easy to identify the drones’ pilots since the rule that requires drone owners to register their crafts will not be in effect until late next year.

The difficulty associated with catching the pilots probably is the reason the UK authorities are hoping to make flying these crafts so close to the airports technically impossible. Among the CAA’s raft of measures tabled to deal with invasions similar to Gatwick’s include using the combination of radar, radio and camera detection as well as jamming technology.

The regulatory body has also proposed that drones be fitted with geo-fencing software to make it impossible to fly them in restricted areas.

The effects of the shutdown may take a while to clear. Aside from the monitored landings and takeoffs, most flights have been diverted to neighbouring airports.  

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