The sequence of diversions and re-routing caused when a drone was sighted close to one of London’s busiest airports has been turned into an amazing animated map by the UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS), to demonstrate the level of disruption even short airport closures can create.

The video map shows what happens to normal air traffic at Gatwick airport when the runway was closed in response to a drone in the vicinity. The closure lasted only nine minutes, but in that time two holding areas away from the airport became congested and some aircraft had to divert to alternative airports over fuel concerns.

The incident happened on a Sunday during the summer when the airport was particularly busy with summer holiday traffic. A drone was spotted close to the runway, but seemed to disappear before returning when the runway reopened, causing it to be closed again for another five minutes. In total, the runway was only closed for 14 minutes, but the level of disruption is easy to see on the map as aircraft circle and shift into safer holding areas with other planes waiting to use the airport.

In all, four holding areas had to be used, and four planes needed to land at different airports because it wasn’t clear how long the closure would last.

"The disruption was significant and took hours to clear; it was around midnight before everything was fully ‘back to normal’ and even then, hundreds of passengers had ended up away from their intended airport and thousands of passengers had been delayed," reports the NATS blog. "All as a result of one drone pilot flouting the rules. "

NATS encourages all drone pilots to read the Civil Aviation Authorities’ Drone Code and to download the Drone Assist app to ensure they fly safely.

You can find out more about the incident and air traffic control on the NATS website.