Gatwick airport: Drone detectors now deployable across Britain, minister says

London airport was forced to close its only runway following repeated drone sightings

FILE PHOTO: An airplane takes off at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
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British Security Minister Ben Wallace said on Monday the UK can now deploy drone detection systems nationwide, after days of drone sightings caused chaos at London's Gatwick Airport and criticism of the government response.

The country's second-busiest airport was forced to repeatedly close its only runway from Wednesday to Friday due to numerous reports of drones. Nearly 140,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted and the army was called out.

"We are able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK to combat this threat," Mr Wallace said. "The huge proliferation of such devices, coupled with the challenges of deploying military counter measures into a civilian environment, means there are no easy solutions."

Meanwhile, investigators received about 30 pieces of "useful information" in the last 24 hours, a police-backed charity said Monday.

The tip-offs came after the airport, 50 kilometres south of London, on Sunday offered a £50,000 (Dh233,000) reward for information.

CrimeStoppers launched the new appeal on Sunday after police released without charge a couple arrested Friday on suspicion of involvement.

Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, who live in nearby Crawley, said on Monday they felt "completely violated" by their two-day detention.

The police rejected criticism of their handling of the incident.


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UK police unequivocally confirm Gatwick drone sightings 

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A detective admitted it was a "possibility" that no drones had actually been in the area – despite the discovery of a damaged device near the airport perimeter that is now being forensically examined.

"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 on Monday.

"There were numerous reports clustered around 37 occasions where a drone or drones were seen and I am keen for those responsible to be brought to justice," DCC Shiner said.

The force provided new details on the sightings, noting that five officers were among the witnesses who reported the devices first appearing Wednesday night.

DCC Shiner added that police were investigating what would be considered "criminal and reckless behaviour" under an aviation and maritime law punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.