A video obtained by the Daily Mail appears to show a drone flying near Gatwick Airport in London on Thursday. The major travel hub has been shut down for nearly 24 hours, causing disruption for thousands of travelers. Authorities have said the drones are being flown near the airport in a purposeful criminal act meant to disrupt travel in London during the busy holiday season.
You can watch the video of the drone, taken about 3 p.m. local time, below:
Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick Airport, said in a statement, “On behalf of everyone at Gatwick I would like to repeat how sorry we are for the inconvenience this criminal behaviour has caused passengers and we share their real anger and frustration that it has happened. This is a highly targeted activity which has been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas. We are working very closely with the police and the security services to try to resolve this for passengers.”
Wingate added, “We hope passengers appreciate that we must and will always prioritise their safety over everything else. We are all working flat out to minimise inconvenience and have additional staff in both terminals assisting passengers who are waiting. Regrettably we are still not in a position to say when it will be safe to reopen the airport. As soon as we can we will.”
Another video was posted on Twitter by a passenger on a plane, but it is not clear if the flying object seen in the footage was a drone or a police helicopter:
Wingate said the lone runway at Gatwick Airport was shut down after reports of two drones flying in and around the airfield about 9 p.m. The sightings continued to be reported over the next several hours, with the last known sighting being at 3 p.m. All flights have been canceled until at least 7 p.m., Wingate said.
“We obviously wanted to be in a position to reopen the airport again as quickly as possible. We are still receiving drone sightings in and around the Gatwick airfield. Therefore, until we are confident that the issue has been resolved it would clearly not be in the interests of passengers to do so as we could be jeopardising their safety,” said Wingate.
Wingate said the airport is working with government officials and police to resolve the situation.
“We know that everyone, including Government, appreciates the severity of the situation and are very grateful for the active role that the police are taking to try and resolve this. We all recognise the urgent need to take the necessary steps that can lead to services getting back to normal as quickly as possible,” Wingate.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said there is no known motive for the pilot or pilots of the drone or drones. The drone or drones that have been sighted are commercial drones, Grayling told The Guardian.
According to The Guardian, the military has been deployed to Gatwick to help reopen the airport, but defence secretary Gavin Williams did not detail what the military’s involvement in the operation would be. Police sharpshooters were spotted at the airport, The Guardian reports, but Gatwick COO Chris Woodroofe had previously told reporters that the risk of a stray bullet made it so the drones could not be shut down.
“We will be deploying the armed forces to give them the help that they need to be able to deal with the situation of the drones at Gatwick airport,” Williamson told The Guardian. “The armed forces have a range of unique capabilities and this isn’t something we would usually deploy but we are there to assist and do everything we can so that they are in a position to open the airport at the earliest opportunity.”
Woodroofe said it is impossible to know when flights would resume. More than 800 flights have been canceled leaving at least 110,000 passengers stranded, Woodroofe told reporters.
Wingate, the Gatwick CEO, said the airport and the government will need to reassess its strategy for dealing with drones in the future.
“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,” Wingate said in a statement. “In the meantime all our focus is on sorting the current challenge and getting services back to normal for passengers. At the moment, I am not in a position to say with certainty when that might be but everyone is doing whatever they can to help make that happen.”