Rogue drones cause chaos at London's Gatwick international airport
|Aircraft stands at the North Terminal — Martin Roell from Berlin, Germany CC BY-SA 2.0|
London's Gatwick airport has been in a state of perpetual disruption since Wednesday, December 19, after 'rogue drones' forced officials to close down the runways. According to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the drones would reappear each time officials attempted to reopen the runaway, leaving the airport in a state of 'chaos.'
Grayling explained to the press that officials were dealing with a 'very serious ongoing incident in which substantial drones have been used to bring about the temporary closure of a major international airport.'
Gatwick was forced to ground flights around 4PM ET / 2100 GMT after two drones were seen flying in the airport's airfield. More than 20 police units are searching for the individual(s) responsible for the drones, according to Reuters, and The Guardian now reports that Army officials have responded to aid with the situation.
Eurocontrol, the European aviation agency, at this time states that Gatwick will not reopen until 10PM local time at the earliest. Though police sharpshooters are on site, they were not authorized to shoot down the drones due to the risk of a stray bullet causing injury. Tens of thousands of passengers traveling over the holiday season have been impacted by the closure and more than 800 flights have been cancelled.
Gatwick airport chief executive Stewart Wingate has released a statement on the matter, saying in part:
Although not for today, these events obviously highlight a wider strategic challenge for aviation in this country which we need to address together with speed - the aviation industry, Government and all the other relevant authorities. It cannot be right that drones can close a vital part of our national infrastructure in this way. This is obviously a relatively new technology and we need to think through together the right solutions to make sure it cannot happen again.
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