Gatwick Drone Chaos Could Have Been Inside Job

15 April 2019, 07:30 | Updated: 15 April 2019, 07:32

Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport which was closed for several days following drone sightings over the airfield.
Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport which was closed for several days following drone sightings over the airfield. Picture: PA

Culprits responsible for the drone closure of Gatwick Airport in the run-up to Christmas had an inside into airport operations, says the airports "gold commander."

Britain's second largest airport faced a three-day shutdown due to drones being sighted flying around the airfield. The incident happened in the run-up to Christmas and was estimated to have cost airlines more than £50m.

Between 19 and 21 December last year, Gatwick faced chaos after a drone was spotted flying over the runway. The incident affected more than 140,000 people, and was only brought to an end when the military was called in with specialist drone detection equipment.

For the first time, Gatwick authorities and police have admitted that the drone pilot may have had insider knowledge.

Speaking to Panorama, Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe, said that evidence points towards the attack being carried out by someone with knowledge of the airport, and their response to the chaos.

Woodroofe said that the drone operators could either see what was taking place on the runway or they were eavesdropping on radio or internet communications.

According to Woodroofe, the drone pilot, "seemed to be able to see what was happening on the runway".

Sussex Police said that an airport insider was a "credible line from the earliest stages of the police process of inquiry."

Police have said it would be "some months" before the investigation is complete, the response involved five police forces and the military. Nobody has been charged with the attack.

Gatwick are now investing millions in dedicated drone detection systems, but Mr Woodroofe said: ‘What this incident has demonstrated is that a drone operator with malicious intent can cause serious disruption to airport operations. And it’s clear that disruption could be carried over into other industries and other environments.’

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