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Gatwick Airport drone culprit may have had insider link

Image credit: reuters

The culprits behind the drone chaos at Gatwick Airport in December could have been helped by an airport insider according to Gatwick’s chief operating officer.

Last December, Gatwick’s main runway was closed for 33 hours after two drones were found flying nearby. The incident caused disruption to around 140,000 passenger journeys and military support had to be called in to remedy the situation.

It prompted both Gatwick and Heathrow to announce the installation of anti-drone technology to head off future incidents.

The rogue operators could either see what was taking place on the runway or they were eavesdropping on radio or internet communications, said Gatwick COO Chris Woodroofe.

Speaking to the BBC’s Panorama Programme, he said the disruption wreaked by the drones was “terrible”.

“It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport”, he said.

Sussex Police said the possibility that the perpetrators could have included an airport insider is a “credible line” of inquiry.

Woodroofe was the “gold commander” in charge of the airport’s response to the incident on December 19 and 21, which hit 1,000 flights.

He said there was “absolutely nothing” that he would have done differently as the safety of passengers was of paramount concern.

“It was terrible that 140,000 people’s journeys were disrupted, but everyone was safe,” he said.

Military anti-drone equipment, which can detect the flying machines and disable them by jamming radio signals, remained at the airport until March.

“We would know the drone was arriving on site and we’d know where that drone had come from, where it was going to and we’d have a much better chance of catching the perpetrator,” Woodroofe said.

“What this incident has demonstrated is that a drone operator with malicious intent can cause serious disruption to airport operations. And it’s clear that disruption could be carried over into other industries and other environments.”

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