Puzzling Events Surround London-Gatwick Drone Investigation

Dec 25, 2018

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Reports of drones caused havoc for passengers and airlines last week at Gatwick airport (LGW) outside of London. Drone sightings reported in the area lead the second busiest airport in Britain to be shut down for 36 hours over three days. The results: around 1,000 cancelled flights and an estimated 140,000 to 200,000 passengers’ travel plans being impacted.

Drones are becoming a real point of concern for airports and aircraft. In a report last year the FAA says drones cause more damage to aircraft than bird strikes do and video shows the tiny UAV’s ripping apart an airplane’s wing.

The investigation at Gatwick has been nothing short of baffling so far:

  • Police say they have 67 eye witnesses statements to the events, however no video exists; this with Gatwick being a heavily surveilled area and smartphones nearly as ubiquitous as air.
  • Police arrested and held a British couple for 36 hours even as the husband’s employer made repeated attempts to tell the authorities that the man was with him during the time of the incident. The couple was released without any charges.
  • An “unidentified military technology” was deployed to the airport to regain control of the area. A BBC report says it was possibly the Israeli developed “Drone Dome,” which can be used to jam communication systems between a drone and its operator. However, the system doesn’t allow for tracking of said drone or operator.
  • A damaged drone was recovered near the airport and is being examined for forensic evidence.
  • Sussex police made a statement saying that it’s possible an airborne drone was never in the area during the event and that the multiple eye witnesses could be mistaken.
Police officers stand near equipment on the rooftop of a building at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on December 21, 2018, as flights resumed following the closing of the airfield due to a drones flying. - British police were Friday considering shooting down the drone that has grounded flights and caused chaos at London's Gatwick Airport, with passengers set to face a third day of disruption. Police said it was a "tactical option" after more than 50 sightings of the device near the airfield since Wednesday night when the runway was first closed. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers stand near equipment on the rooftop of a building at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on December 21, 2018, as flights resumed following the closing of the airfield due to a drones flying. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP /Getty Images).

Twitter had a field day with when the police said that the drones may have never existed:

After all of that fun however, it seems that the authorities are going back on that earlier statement. On a call Monday, government ministers blasted the way the police have handled the investigation. Police reportedly agreed they had “messed up” and blamed the miscommunication on “poor media management.” The authorities insist that the investigation is moving forward.

“We can unequivocally state that there have been numerous illegal drone sightings at the airport over three days from 19 to 21 December,” Sussex Police Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said, reports the New York Times.

Police are continuing to interview eye witnesses and even going house to house in the area in search of leads and additional information. Police are now offering a £50,000 pound reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who caused the airport havoc.

Although the airport has resumed flight operations, for now the only thing that is clear is the Gatwick drone saga is far from over.

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