Attack of the Drones: 800 Flights Canceled After Rogue UAVs Shut Down London Airport

Friday, 21 December 2018 - 9:35AM
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Friday, 21 December 2018 - 9:35AM
Attack of the Drones: 800 Flights Canceled After Rogue UAVs Shut Down London Airport
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Traveling around the holidays is always a nightmare, but for those going in and out of London's Gatwick Airport yesterday it was pure hell. According to reports, the second busiest airport in Britain experienced 36 hours of flight cancellations after drones were spotted in the restricted airspace around the facility. 

It is illegal to fly a drone near an airport. Not only are there security issues, but it's also not safe when there are massive metal tubes filled with people moving at high speeds through the sky. The violating tech was first spotted around 9PM on Wednesday night. There were more than 50 sightings in the span of 24 hours, but it is unclear whether all who reported were seeing the same drone. The Army was deployed to help with the investigation and to assist with any other possible threats. "This is clearly a very serious ongoing incident in which substantial drones have been used to bring about the temporary closure of a major international airport," said transport secretary, Chris Grayling. Around 800 flights in total were cancelled, which affected an estimated 126,000 passengers. "The people who were involved should face the maximum possible custodial sentence for the damage they have done," Grayling added. "The government is doing everything it can to support Sussex police."

The runway reopened early Friday morning, but it takes time to recover from a disruption of that magnitude. Despite the search efforts of around 20 police units, we still don't know who was responsible. The Guardian reports that "military-grade drone tracking and signal jamming machines" were spotted at the airport, but the police would not comment on what efforts they were taking to shoot down the drones, if spotted again. The police were also considering using firearms to blast the robots out of the sky. "Persons of interest" have been identified by the authorities, but names and motives have not been shared with the public. "In terms of motivation there is a whole spectrum of possibilities, from the really high end criminal behaviour all the way down to just individuals trying to be malicious," Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said in a statement.

As of now, there is really no way to stop anyone with a drone from entering restricted airspace, so all airports and authorities can do is react. The shut down at Gatwick has further illustrated just how ill-prepared airports are for such a treat. "This is an unprecedented issue," Gatwick's chief executive Chris Woodroofe said after the runway was reopened. "This isn't a Gatwick Airport issue. It's not even a UK issue. It's an international issue. What we need to be doing going forward is work with technology providers and with the Government to enhance our ability to address the risk posed by drones to airports...we have been working with technology providers ourselves for the last 12 months but stood here today, there is no commercially available airport licensed proven technology that I could implement."
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