Gatwick airport drones incident leads to arrests

Passengers stranded at Gatwick.


Athanasios Gioumpasis/Techhnews

The drone-caused chaos at London’s Gatwick airport has resulted in two arrests.

Sussex police said Saturday that they’d taken a man and woman into custody on suspicion of disrupting services at the UK’s second-busiest airport “to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons.”

Gatwick’s airfield was closed for more than a day after drones were spotted nearby on Wednesday night local time. It reopened Friday morning before being shut down again briefly after another drone sighting. The closures caused problems for tens of thousands of holiday travelers, as flights were canceled, delayed or diverted.

The police department’s investigation is ongoing, Sussex police Superintendent James Collis said in a statement.

“Every line of enquiry will remain open to us until we are confident that we have mitigated further threats to the safety of passengers,” Collis said. He urged anyone with information about the drone incidents to contact Sussex police and said the department continued to urge “the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick” to “be vigilant.”

The police said there aren’t any indications that the drone events were “terror related,” CBS News reported, but in a tweet Friday, the department called the drone incursions a “deliberate and serious act.”

Gatwick’s CEO said the same in a Thursday statement, labeling the incident “a highly targeted activity … designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas.” Police tweeted on Thursday that the drones appeared to be industrial models.

The 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman were arrested late Friday in the town of Crawley, where they’re from, police said.

In a statement on its site Saturday, Gatwick said it planned to run a full schedule of flights over the weekend but said it expected some further cancellations and delays, and it advised passengers to check with airlines before heading to the airport.

First published Dec. 22, 11:25 a.m. PT
Update, 11:46 a.m.: Adds mention of tweets by Sussex police and statement from Gatwick CEO concerning deliberate nature of incident.

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