Police send in snipers to shoot down Gatwick drone

The is the first footage of the drone that has shut down Gatwick for the past 24 hours as the Army was called in to help shoot it down and the 110,000 people stranded on the ground warned the chaos could continue until Christmas Eve.

Its rogue pilot is in a cat-and-mouse game with police and sent the unmanned small aircraft over the runway at 3pm, minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm. 

The drone flights are ‘highly targeted’ and have ‘been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas’, the airport’s chief executive officer, Stewart Wingate, said. 

Exclusive footage obtained by MailOnline shows the drone flying past Gatwick’s north terminal and over the runway before it dives away and lands to the east of the airport after being chased by a police helicopter. 

On the ground armed officers carrying Heckler & Koch sniper rifles have been dotted along the runway ready to shoot down the drone – but have failed to end the most disruptive airport trespass in UK history. 

Today 760 flights were grounded over fears the drone could take down a passenger jet with Gatwick’s runway set to be closed until the manhunt ends. 

Airport bosses have warned the disruption will run into Friday and Saturday – the busiest days of the festive getaway – but passengers already stranded are struggling to get a new flight before Christmas Eve or have had to cancel their trips completely. 

The Ministry of Defence confirmed this afternoon that it has deployed ‘specialist equipment’ to deal with the situation after police requested help.

Officers requested soldiers to test the Army’s new weapon – known as a ‘Drone Dome’ or ‘kill-jammer’ – which can ‘soft kill’ a drone by knocking out its communications or a ‘hard kill’ by shooting it down with a laser from up to two miles away. The MoD has not confirmed what it meant by ‘specialist equipment’.

The shutdown at Gatwick today has renewed calls for the use of anti-drone technology at British airports including frequency jammers and early warning systems now common near US runways. 

This is the first picture of the drone causing chaos at Gatwick was last seen at 3pm today (circled) – just after Gatwick announced they hoped to re-open at 4pm

The industrial drone has been spotted more than a dozen times and the Army could now be sent in to destroy it

Police marksmen armed with Heckler & Koch HK417 sniper rifles have been stationed on the perimeter of Gatwick and along its runway (pictured) as they prepare to shoot down a drone that have shut down the airport

The drone has buzzed across Gatwick’s runway more than ten times since 9pm last night but police claim every time they get close to it it ‘disappears’

People are growing increasingly frustrated as they sit trapped at the airport where the drone has grounded planes after chaos began at 9.03pm last night 

This is the scene at Gatwick today where tens of thousands face doubts they will get away for Christmas as a result of the drone chaos

Gatwick is ‘full to capacity’ with no flights coming in or out on one of the busiest days of the year at UK airports with 110,000 expected there today alone

Specialist equipment protrudes from a van as police and the Army search for the drone and its pilot as chaos continues at London Gatwick Airport 

A group of youngsters watch something on their phones as one young man gets some sleep as up to 760 flights were suspended today

Police are pictured at Gatwick’s police station roof today as they use equipment in the ongoing task to stop the drone unleashing chaos in Sussex 

One woman gets some sleep on the Gatwick floor using her suitcase a makeshift pillow today after the suspension of all flights in and out

Parent Ani Kochiashvili photographs her baby and a toddler as they get some sleep on the chairs in Gatwick while passengers on a Norwegian Air flight diverted to Paris Orly get from fresh air as they are stranded on the Tarmac

These poor passengers were diverted to Birmingham after struggling to land at Gatwick and were forced to sleep on board

One passenger stranded on the Tarmac at Gatwick filmed what he claimed was the drone flying overhead (left), although others have suggested it could be too large. A police helicopter is pictured, right, as police tried to track the drone today

Planes have been diverted to as far away as Bordeaux, Paris, Amsterdam and Shannon as well as the majority of airports in the UK

The prime minister’s spokesman has said that the government at 3pm today in order to address the ‘serious’ ongoing incident.

‘There is at the moment, a cross Whitehall meeting of officials taking place in relation to Gatwick,’ he said. ‘It is taking place in the Cabinet Office briefing room, although it is not a Cobra meeting. This is one of those meetings to bring together all officials from relevant departments.’

He said officials from the department for transport, police and home office were among those at the meeting. He said that officials have been talking with manufacturers about bringing in geo-fencing and nets to stop drones from being able to fly into sensitive areas.

A police helicopter and dozens of officers on the ground are currently scanning a five-mile zone around Gatwick to find and arrest the suspect, who faces up to five years in jail. 

Timeline: How dangerous drone pilot managed to shut down Gatwick

Police are hunting for the expert drone pilot who has grounded hundreds of planes coming in and out of Gatwick by flying a drone at least ten time 

Here is how the chaos has unfolded:

9pm, December 19: Drone is first spotted by airport staff hovering near the runway causing flights to be grounded or diverted.

9.15pm: It appears again leading Gatwick bosses to believe it is a deliberate act.

9.30pm – midnight: The drone is seen at least five more times in that period

3.01am, December 20: Airport re-opens its runway after the all clear is given

3.45am: Drone is seen again and flights are again grounded

7am: Small unmanned aircraft appears again

9am: Last sighting of the drone as police start hunting perimeter of the airport 

Midday: Police are unable find the drone pilot despite it appearing again at lunchtime with Gatwick saying all flights are grounded until at least 4pm

2pm: Airport admits it has ‘no idea’ when it will re-open as police struggle to find the pilot 

3pm: The drone is spotted again as it buzzes across Gatwick’s runway. It was just minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm.

4pm: Drone spotted flying over the runway yet again. 

5pm: Ministry of Defence confirms that it is using specialist equipment to seek out the drone  

With pressure increasing to find the perpetrator, Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, the airport’s policing commander, said: ‘Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears. I’m absolutely convinced it’s a deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick Airport’. 

In an emailed statement, Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling said: ‘This is clearly a very serious ongoing incident in which substantial drones have been used to bring about the temporary closure of a major international airport.

‘The people who were involved should face the maximum possible custodial sentence for the damage they have done.

‘Government is doing everything it can to support Sussex police.’

He this evening told Sky News: ‘We’re doing everything we can to make arrangements with other airports to get passengers incoming into the UK, but also to give passengers a chance to get out of the UK as quickly as possible.

‘One of the things we’re going to be doing is temporarily lifting the night-flight restrictions at other airports so more planes can get into and out of the country.

‘Apologies for the residents affected, but it’s right and proper that we try and sort people’s Christmases out.

‘It’s likely to be other London airports but it will only be tonight. We will review the situation again tomorrow but we’re looking to get people away.’

In the chaos British Airways staff have been handing out food and drink to passengers stricken at Gatwick.

The airline has given them 22,000 bottles of water, 4,000 cans of soft drinks, 1,000 slices of cake, 3,000 biscuits, 3,600 packets of crackers and 1,800 packets of crisps

BA staff bussed in from Heathrow to help and hotel rooms have been given to passengers who are stuck. The airline said all customers can claim back meals, taxis etc if they keep receipts. 

Detectives are investigating if the drone chaos is a stunt by a lone wolf pilot or part of a wider plot by activists who want to disrupt flights for environmental or political reasons – but police have initially ruled out a terror attack. 

The Army may soon join the hunt and a MoD spokesman said: ‘There are ongoing discussions with the police about any military capability that could be provided to assist with their operation’. 

Inside the London airport’s two terminals tens of thousands of people have been stranded and forced to sleep on floors as up to 760 flights face cancellation, including several meant to fly children to meet Santa in Lapland. 

Many more have said their dream trips around the world to see family and friends for Christmas are now in ruins.

In the worst drone incursion at a UK airport in history, it emerged: 

  • Police continue manhunt for drone pilot who has been flying over the airport since 9pm on Thursday night;
  • Gatwick has grounded up to 760 flights for safety reasons with more than 110,000 people stranded today. Disruption will continue into Friday and Saturday;
  • Last night 10,000 people were stuck with 6,000 diverted elsewhere and 4,000 on planes that never took off;
  • Drone is being flown by an expert pilot using a commercial drone who has flown it over Gatwick at least once an hour since 9pm; 
  • Police marksmen now dotted close to Gatwick’s runway and perimeter fences and Army could now be sent in with a new weapon that neutralises a drone from up to two miles away; 

Around 10,000 people were stranded at Gatwick last night because of the drone incursions with 110,000 more victims today.

Soldiers sent in with specialist equipment 

Specialists from the Army have taken electronic equipment to Gatwick Airport.

The technology is capable of tracking drones in the darkness.

Sources told Mirror Online that the devices might also be used to track the drone’s pilot.

It is believed that the equipment being used has been used on the battlefield and is highly sensitive.  

Thousands including young children were to sleep on floors or chairs as all flight departures were grounded. Extra airport staff have been drafted in to hand out food and drink. 

The found of US firm Airspace, Jaz Banga, has told Sky News that it could take up to two days to locate the drones. It comes as at about 4.30pm British Airways announced that all of its flights will remain cancelled at Gatwick until 7pm and at 5.30pm easyJet said all its flights to and from the site for the rest of the day were cancelled.

Gatwick’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, confirmed a recent drone sighting and said disruption would continue for several days.

He told BBC News: ‘There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption.

‘We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.

‘It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.

‘Realistically if we do reopen today, what the airlines will seek to do is deal with the passengers who are on site and to prepare for an operation tomorrow morning where we repatriate passengers who are in the wrong place.

‘It’s realistically going to take several days to recover.’ 

He added: ‘I’m absolutely certain this is a deliberate act. There is a drone on my airfield as we speak.’  

All of the hundreds of planes currently at Gatwick are grounded (pictured today) with hundreds more diverted to other UK and European airports

Police watchers are on the roof of the Gatwick police station but are struggling to find the person causing chaos with a drone

Christmas may be cancelled for some of the poor passengers whose trips abroad to see friends and family are now in tatters

The tens of thousands stuck in Gatwick’s two terminals have been forced to sit and wait as police tried and failed to find the pilot

A young woman has her head in her hands as she and 100,000 others face disruption because of the drone chaos

This is the moment police boarded a flight at Stansted Airport after irate passengers flying home from Cape Verde were diverted  away from Gatwick

Ground vehicles are shown here scouring the perimeter of the airport looking for its rogue pilot today

There have been several potential sightings of the drone – but police claim that every time they get close it disappears

Gatwick Airport confirmed they suspended flight operations after at least one drone was seen in the area surrounding the aerodrome. They said it was necessary to take this action for safety reasons 

Eddie Boyes says an offer of a hotel was later rescinded as chaos at Gatwick took over overnight because of cancellations

One pilot expressed his frustration on Instagram posting a picture from the flight deck as planes were stuck on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport while in the terminal a stranded passenger gets some rest while sat in a trolley

Queues for check in are snaking through the terminal into the arrivals area, which has had no flights landing since 9pm yesterday

People are sleeping wherever they can find space with many explaining there are no hotel rooms available in the area around Britain’s second busiest airport

Planes have been cancelled, diverted and delayed as Gatwick remained on complete lockdown today

A three-year-old little boy catches up on some sleep on the seats in Gatwick as tens of thousands were stranded there, across the UK and abroad

On one of the busiest travelling days of the year queues snaked through Gatwick South as people tried to check in for flights that were going nowhere

The deserted runway at Gatwick where hundreds of planes were unable to take off or land since 9pm last night

Planes due to fly in to Gatwick were diverted to European airports including Amsterdam, Paris, Bordeaux and Shannon as well as the majority of UK airports, where some stranded passengers slept on their planes because of a lack of hotel rooms. 

Is it time for Britain to get anti-drone technology? Gatwick mayhem will renew calls for UK airports to have US defence system that downs unmanned aircraft with menacing radio waves

Calls for tougher anti-drone detection systems at UK airports that can spot devices up to five miles away within three seconds will be renewed today, following the suspension of flights at Gatwick Airport.

US airports use jammers to block the frequencies used to control drones, making them stop working if they are anywhere near a commercial or military runway. 

A drone flies in the air, with a British Airways aircraft pictured to the rear in February 2017

They also have ‘early warning’ systems to tell air traffic control if a drone is approaching – but these are not in place at UK airports.

According to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), there were 117 near misses between manned aircraft and drones up until November this year, compared to 93 for the whole of 2017 – a rise of 58 per cent.

Experts believe a large drone could take down a passenger jet because it could shred an engine if it was sucked in or destroy its windscreen or windows, causing a sudden drop in cabin pressure.

Strong sales of small consumer drones – especially in the run up to Christmas each year – have led to repeated warnings about a possible threat to scheduled flights, which have become a reality just five days before December 25.

The Civil Aviation Authority has estimated that 1.5million drones were bought in Britain last Christmas, with 63 per cent of these purchased as a gift.

More expensive commercial drones can be flown from up to five miles away or even remotely using GPS programming.

Earlier this year, new laws came into force which ban all drones from flying above 400ft and within 1km (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries. Drone users who flout the restrictions could face an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both. 

One passenger flying from Cape Verde to Gatwick became so irate about being diverted to Stansted last night he allegedly opened the door while a fellow traveller then claimed he was a terrorist so he could get off, leading to police being sent on board.  

Ed Wilde claims to have filmed it flying over his plane last night as commercial drone pilots said only an expert using specialist and hugely expensive equipment could be behind the chaos. 

Last night people, including children as young as three, were forced to sleep on Gatwick’s terminal floors, seats or on grounded jets because of a lack of hotels. 

Eddie Boyes, who was caught in the chaos, said today: ‘We were offered a hotel only for that to be rescinded shortly afterwards. People sleeping on floor in south terminal, utter shambles’.  

A mother said she has suffered an ’emotional disaster’ after spending the night on a cold floor with her eight-year-old-daughter and three-year-old son.

Yulia Hristova, who was meant to fly to Istanbul via Kiev at 3am and has been at the airport since midnight, said: ‘With two kids I’m in a difficult position, I’m so tired, I’m so upset, we’ve had no information.

‘We were standing for hours, nobody’s been on the desk. It was so cold. We were sleeping on the floor, me and my children. I lost my son during the night, and a policeman brought him back.

‘I was meant to be reunited with my family, my kids were so excited they didn’t sleep until 6am, they were waiting to get on the plane.

‘It’s been an emotional disaster.

‘I’m so exhausted, I don’t want to stress out but it’s very worrying. What’s going to happen to us in Ukraine? What if we run out of money? Are the airline going to put us in a hotel?

‘I want to give up right now, it’s making me so anxious.’

Mamosta Abdulla said he was on an Iraq-bound flight on Wednesday evening before getting stuck on the tarmac for four hours and will now miss his father’s memorial service.

He said: ‘We got here at 6pm and should have flown at 9.10pm, but we were stuck four hours on the plane with a crying baby, the child was disabled and everyone was sweating because it was so hot in there.

‘They gave us hope by showing us the safety procedure and then five minutes later they say nobody is flying.

‘We got given a £12 refreshment voucher each after a couple hours of waiting and that’s it.

‘We’ve had to sleep in a freezing place, on uncomfortable chairs. We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands! But here some drones have shut down the airport.’ 

A Gatwick spokesman said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.

He was unable to state how many of these passengers had already been affected but the first wave of flights is normally the busiest time of the day.

Around 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night after the runway was closed at 9.03pm.

Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport if their flight is cancelled. 

Dozens of people were perched on seats with jackets and coats used as makeshift blankets after being stranded in the airport overnight. 

Gatwick has said that its terminals are now full and urged anyone with a flight booked to check with their airlines before travelling there

Passengers have been forced to sit and wait as Gatwick remained shut down today as the Christmas getaway started

Statement: Gatwick posted a message on Twitter urging passengers to check with their airline before travelling to the airport on Thursday amid fears the knock-on effects of the drone chaos would last well into the day 

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said the Government was considering extending police powers to prevent drones causing airport disruption in the future.

Were drones built by someone who planned to disrupt? Top expert says specialist equipment would have been needed

The drone used over London Gatwick Airport were potentially built by someone who planned to cause disruption, a top expert said today.

Samuel Luff, who has been flying drones for five years, said he believes the operator could have been manning the drone from up to five miles away.

Mr Luff, who runs Apollo Drone Services in Redhill, Surrey, also pointed out that it was raining at the time the drone was first sighted – giving further evidence that the device is specialised enough to work in wet conditions.

By SAMUEL LUFF, Apollo Drone Services

As a licensed and insured drone operator and a drone pilot for close to five years, I am actually amazed that it is only now in 2018 that we are seeing a serious threat at Gatwick Airport. 

I have had many conversations with my clients over the years about just how destructive the technology could be in the wrong hands, and in my opinion this is what we are seeing this morning. 

From the video that I have watched it is clear to me that the drones we are seeing are not of standard specification and have potentially been built for the purpose to disrupt. 

Here’s the thing – the largest seller of drones, DJI, all have built in systems that prevent the operator from flying close to airports, to stop things like this happening. 

Someone here has not only got close to the airport but has been seen over the runway itself. 

This is not someone making a foolish mistake, this is someone who has planned this and built or modified a drone that can get this close to a runway. 

It is also worth pointing out that at 9pm (the approximate time they were seen) it was raining. 

Again, this points to something that is much more specialist, and Gatwick Airport has stated that ‘one of the drones is a heavy, industrial type’.

It is entirely possible these people were operating the drone from up to five miles away which will make it very hard to track them down. Drones are too small to be picked up by a radar as well so they can go relatively unnoticed.

What I would like to see here is the Civil Aviation Authority and the police make it very clear to people that breaking drone rules will have serious consequences. 

There are thousands of videos online of people flying drones over crowds of people and through city centres. Very rarely do these people get prosecuted and it leads to things like this which damages our industry. 

I have seen instances where unlicensed pilots know full well they are breaking the rules but do so anyway because they know that the police simply do not have the time to deal with them.

Drones are used for good all across the UK by sensible, qualified operators and it’s moments like this that further add to the public’s perception that all drones are bad. 

Until someone is made an example of then I fully understand their concerns.

Visit Mr Luff’s Twitter page here – or view the Apollo Drone Services website

She told BBC News: ‘I think it’s important to be clear this is a crime, this drone is being flown illegally.

‘Earlier this year we changed the law to make it illegal to fly within a kilometre of an airport and I know that police are out and trying to bring the drone down as quickly as possible.

‘This is an illegal act. We are also looking to extend police powers and early in the new year we’ll be looking at our next steps on that.

‘The other thing we’re looking at is counter-drone technology. Technology in this area is obviously moving incredibly quickly, but we need to make sure we’re able to stop such activity in future.’

Baroness Sugg said authorities were hoping to get Gatwick open as quickly as possible as people travel for the Christmas break.

She added: ‘Our priority is to get that airport open as safely as possible so that people can fly off on their Christmas breaks, or people who are coming in to visit friends and family.

‘The police are working to bring the drone down, and I am confident that they will do so. ‘

Social media has been flooded with hundreds of complaints as airlines struggle to deal with the backlog. As well as dealing with flights delayed going in and out of Gatwick, airlines will have to get diverted planes back to the airport, meaning more knock-on delays today. 

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after a drone was sighted near the airfield but the runway reopened at about 3am

But just 45 minutes later it was shut again after a drone was spotted again. 

Passengers faced delays to their travels on Wednesday night as some flights were unable to leave the tarmac while others were diverted to alternative airports.

Some people reported being left stuck on planes for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on.

Gatwick advised anyone flying from the airport, or collecting someone, to check the status of their flight.

A spokeswoman added that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.

Lyndsey Clarke, from Southend on Sea, said she was stuck on a plane for more than four hours after it was re-routed to Stansted.

The 27-year-old said passengers were then having to get taxis back to Gatwick after they were finally allowed off the aircraft.

Luke McComiskie’s plane ended up in Manchester, and he described chaotic scenes as people tried to find their way home after more than three hours stuck onboard.

The 20-year-old from Aldershot said: ‘We got told there would be some arrangements with coaches for us when we get out the terminal… it was just chaos and they had only two coaches and taxis charging people £600 to get to Gatwick.’

Joe Bond’s flight from Belfast was diverted to Birmingham, and he joked on Twitter: ‘From the sound of the stewards we might be staying here forever.’

He added: ‘Update. Got a free can of Coke and Pringles. Which has made the delay better.’

Flight tracking site Plane Finder said some flights had been put on a holding pattern over France.

It is understood two British Airways flights were diverted to Heathrow Airport.

Oana Damian tweeted that her flight had been diverted to London Heathrow but no-one could disembark as there were no customs and ground handling operations in place to deal with the plane.

Honor Ireland wrote: ‘Landed at Stansted when we should be at @Gatwick-Airport due to a supposed drone sighting – car is at Gatwick, fantastic! £gatwickairport’

John Belo said: ‘Plane should have departed an hour ago from @Gatwick-Airport – captain confirmed there are reports of a drone in the area … still waiting.’ 

The drama overnight was played out on social media with people posting their stories on Instagram and Snapchat

After more than four-and-a-half hours on the tarmac at Gatwick, passengers on an China Airways flight received an in-flight meal at 2am today as they awaited permission to taxi to the runway and take off while passengers on another diverted flight were made to wait in Paris today (right)

Planes were stranded side-by-side on runways across Europe. These aircraft are pictured at Birmingham after the flight from Belfast was diverted in the chaos 

Flights were grounded as a drone was spotted flying at Gatwick (pictured), shutting down the runway from 9pm last night until 3am this morning. It was only open for 45 minutes before airport officials reinstated the departure ban again at 3.45am (pictured)

This map shows how planes from all over the UK and Europe were diverted as the drone started flying near the Gatwick runway 

The chaos is set to spill over this morning as airport security were deployed at the scene last night as flights were downed at Gatwick 

Many passengers faced hours-long coach journeys to reach their final destination after the flight ban was reimposed by airport officials at 3.45am today. 

What is the law on drones? Who can buy them and how flying too close to an airport can land you five years in prison 

The major flight disruption at London Gatwick today comes just five months after new laws banned drones from flying too close to airports.

Legislation implemented in July means people in Britain are now banned from flying the devices above 400ft and within 1km (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries.

Drone users who flout the height and airport boundary restrictions could face an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

Laws introduced to the Commons in May mean people flying drones which weigh 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Drone pilots will be required to take an online safety test under the new legislation, with the requirements set to come into force in November next year.

Research has found a drone weighing 400g (14oz) could smash a helicopter windscreen, and one at 2kg (4lbs) could critically damage an airliner’s windscreen. 

In July, the DfT said it was considering introducing an age restriction, banning children from owning drones weighing at least 250g.

It also said it was considering giving police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £300 for misuse and the ability to seize drones being used irresponsibly.  

There have already been 117 near misses between manned aircraft and drones up until November this year, compared to 93 for the whole of 2017.  

Aviation chiefs warned every UK airport in the south-east of England was full to capacity as a result of the shutdown with knock-on effects expected throughout the region. 

One easyJet passenger on a flight from from Rome required medical attention after his flight was diverted to Stansted.  

And some unlucky flyers were stuck circling over Bristol on a Norwegian Air plane before the flight from JFK was diverted to Liverpool.   

Those hoping to make a Christmas getaway elsewhere in the UK or abroad could have their plans thrown into chaos with further delays expected into Thursday and dozens of jets still at the wrong airport.   

Social media users continued to report sightings of more drones throughout the night after the first two sightings were confirmed by airport bosses. One report said up to seven had been seen, but other witnesses claimed they were helicopters hunting the original drone.

At least one pilot diverted from Gatwick declared a ‘pan pan’ emergency – one level down from a mayday – in a sign his aircraft needed to land urgently. 

One man, Philip Dodson, was waiting for his wife on an easyJet flight from Porto. He slammed the airline for the lack of information. 

He wrote on twitter: ‘Your customer service and lack info is a disgrace just been waiting for my wife to arrive from Porto. 

‘Your website says it landed on time yet my wife is on the plane which was diverted to Southend, where she still is with no info.’ 

One passenger, Harriet MacEacharn said she and her boyfriend were waiting to take off on a China Airlines flight to Taipei when they were delayed. 

‘At about 9.40 they told us they were investigating a foreign object on the runway. Now its 11.30 and we’ve heard not one thing more from the airline.’  She said it was likely they would miss their connecting flight. 

Passengers vented their fury as they remained stuck on the tarmac after flights were diverted across the continent due to a drone being seen at London’s Gatwick Airport

Social media users continued to report sighting throughout the night following the initial two drones that were spotted near Gatwick Airport 

Frustrated customers are stuck at a crowded Gatwick airport as drone sightings brought flights to a standstill and closed down the runway 

Relatives of those waiting for loved ones complained about the lack of staff providing information for those at Gatwick Airport

Other passengers reported they were held on the tarmac of Heathrow Airport because there were not enough security staff and customs officials to screen the unexpected arrivals. 

More than two-dozen flights have been forced to divert while air traffic control waits to give the all clear. 

British Airways apologised to its customers claiming flight operations had to be suspended because of the drone. 

Some flights were forced to divert to Birmingham, leaving passengers more than 100 miles from their intended destination. 

While other aircraft were forced into holding patterns over France before receiving permission to approach Gatwick.  It is understood one Ryanair aircraft requested a diversion to Stansted. 

One passenger said they were forced to land in Liverpool rather than Gatwick 

Gatwick Airport said: ‘ ‘Following reports of two drones flying over the Gatwick Airfield, we have had to suspend flights while this is investigated.

‘We apologise to any affected passengers for this inconvenience but the safety is our foremost priority.’

Family members expressed anger over social media after their loved ones were diverted to different airports. 

One easyJet flight landed at Stansted instead of Gatwick because of the continued chaos. 

Other flights are believed to have landed in Manchester, Cardiff, Luton and Paris.  

One Norwegian Air flight from JFK diverted to Liverpool having circled Bristol while awaiting an update.  

Several passengers reported long waits for take off or diversions.

Twitter user Seun Olayanju posted: ‘@AerLingus currently stuck at Gatwick waiting for the heavily delayed E10249 to Dublin. Please can you confirm if the flight will run tonight?’

Honor Ireland wrote: ‘Landed at Stanstead when we should be at @Gatwick-Airport due to a supposed drone sighting – car is at Gatwick, fatastic! £gatwickairport’ 

Kirsty Lingston said: ‘Thanks to the d*cks flying drones around my flight to Gatwick has now landed in Southend.’

A passenger revealed he departed the Isle of Man more than 90 minutes late only to land at Manchester where he has to face a four-and-a-half hour coach journey. 

In Britain, the number of near misses between private drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board. 

One passenger asked how a drone could force the closure of an entire airport

Gatwick travel chaos: What are consumers entitled to and can they get any compensation? 

Tens of thousands of passengers have been suffering travel chaos after a drone was flown around Gatwick Airport. Here is a look at what help customers could be entitled to:

– Will those affected be entitled to compensation?

Consumer rights experts say that despite the frustration for those who have suffered disruption, these are ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: ‘This situation will understandably be frustrating for both the airlines and the tens of thousands of passengers travelling to and from Gatwick ahead of Christmas.

‘Whilst these extraordinary circumstances unfortunately mean you are not entitled to compensation, you may still be entitled to meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation or transfers.

‘You don’t have to cancel your tickets though, as depending on the length of the delay, your airline should be providing you with alternative travel options or accommodation.’

– What are extraordinary circumstances?

Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights hinges on the reason for the delay and the length of notice passengers are given. Which? says that in cases where the airline can prove the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, no compensation is payable.

Extraordinary circumstances are situations out of the airline’s control, for example, a security risk, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous.

– What support can people get?

Which? says that if someone’s flight is delayed for at least two hours, depending on the length of the flight, their airline may give them two free phone calls, faxes or emails; free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay; and free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

If a flight was delayed for more than five hours they may be able to choose between being rerouted on a different flight or getting a refund – just as if the flight had been cancelled.

– How can insurers help?

Martyn James, spokesman for consumer help website Resolver.co.uk, suggests that as well as speaking to the airline, ‘you can also speak to your travel insurer to see if you have any options in your insurance policy’.

Giving general advice, the Association of British Insurers said people should speak to their airline or travel company first.

A spokesman said: ‘For additional travel disruption costs, such as missed hotel bookings or already paid for activities that you can no longer make, you should speak to your travel insurer as these may be covered under the terms of your travel insurance, depending on the type of cover you have bought.’

Insurer Axa says if customers need to change the dates of their trip they should make contact to update their policy.

‘Our Christmas plans have been ruined by a rogue drone’: Furious passengers blast Gatwick chaos after diversions and cancellations leave thousands stranded across UK and Europe

Passengers stranded by the chaos at Gatwick Airport today told of families running out of food and trying to sleep in ‘freezing’ terminals and crowded planes.

Pregnant women and young children were resting on the floor, disabled people were on chairs and people were trying to calm small babies amid the travel carnage.  

Some became so irate at being stuck on the ground for four hours at Stansted that one allegedly opened the plane door before another claimed he was a terrorist. 

At Gatwick, Hollie Smith was supposed to be flying to Lapland with her five-year-old twin nieces Gracie and Sofia from Chelmsford to meet Father Christmas.

At London Gatwick today, Hollie Smith was supposed to be flying to Lapland with her five-year-old twin nieces Gracie and Sofia (pictured) from Chelmsford to meet Father Christmas

But she said: ‘Who will be the one to break the news to them? Sat in departures with no information. Twelve-plus hours to take down a drone is laughable… don’t they have police drones to send up?’

MailOnline travel editor Ted Thornhill was among those caught up in the trouble, as his Christmas plans to visit relatives in France were ‘ruined’ by the drone.

The father-of-one said: ‘We were supposed to be flying to Marseille to visit French relatives but our 8.40am easyJet flight was cancelled.

‘The only options open to us were to transfer to a late flight tomorrow to Nice – which would have been very disruptive for the baby’s sleep pattern – or book a new flight, which would have been very expensive.

‘So we’ve cancelled the entire trip. Luckily we heard about the disruption before we got to the airport so returned home. Very frustrating.’

Dozens of police officers are now hunting for the drone pilot as flights remain delayed today

A six-and-a-half hour TUI Airways flight from Cape Verde to London Gatwick was diverted to Stansted due to disruption caused by drones over the Sussex airport.

But passengers claimed it was ‘pure hell’ on the Tarmac at Stansted overnight on flight TOM687, with some shouting at other travellers and being abusive to staff.

Having been stuck on the plane – which landed at about 10.15pm last night – for four hours, a man then allegedly opened the door and put everyone on board at risk.

Another then said he was a terrorist – and video footage showed two Essex Police officers coming on board to defuse the situation. No arrests were made.

One passenger, Lyndsey Clarke, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, tweeted: ‘So Gatwick is shut due to drones so our flight TOM687 has been diverted to Stansted.

Passengers stand by a plane door in Paris today after being diverted there on a Norweigan flight that had been headed to Gatwick. They said staff had started handing out water bottles

‘So far we’ve been stuck on our plane for four hours… a man has opened the plane door and put everyone at risk and then another guy says he’s a terrorist.

‘Living pure hell right now. The staff on flight TOM687 have been amazing but unfortunately they have been subject to so much abuse.

‘We all just want to get home. Several passengers on flight TOM687 just making this ordeal so awful, abusive to staff, shouting at other passengers. Police here now.’

Later, she added that she finally off ‘the plane of living hell’, adding: ‘Now to find a taxi back to Gatwick with a big bill – passengers trying to go together.’

And at 5.30am, Ms Clarke tweeted a picture of her car, saying: ‘Never been so happy to see our car. Back at Gatwick finally… eight hours later than our scheduled flight was due to arrive home at 9.30pm… just over an hour’s drive home now.’

Passenger chaos at Gatwick Airport this morning, amid chaos for tens of thousands of people

After arriving home she tweeted: ‘As for the terrorist… I have no words that someone thought it was OK to terrify an aircraft by saying he was a terrorist when in fact he was using it as an ‘idea’ to get them to let us off the plane, causing many of us to have panic attacks as we didn’t know if he was real.’

Another passenger, Ashley Pollitt, tweeted TUI to praise staff on the flight for being ‘nothing but helpful and informing us regularly’ about what was happening.

She added: ‘I’m sensing you will get a lot of complaints off idiotic customers that put both passengers/staff in danger along with other throwing stupid statements around. 

‘I just wanted to say your staff from the captain to the cabin crew were nothing but professional and informative.’

TUI replied, saying: ‘Sorry to hear that your flight has had to be diverted Ashley, I can imagine this has been an inconvenience. It’s great to read however that our staff have been helpful in keeping you informed during this time.’

It then added: ‘Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us Ashley. We’ll be sure to pass on your kind words to the crew of TOM687.’

An Essex Police spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We were called shortly after 1.35am on Thursday, December 20 to reports a passenger was being disruptive.

‘We attended and spoke to the parties involved. No offences were identified and words of advice were given to the male passenger.’

A TUI spokesman said: ‘We would like to apologise to customers travelling on TOM687 which was diverted to London Stansted due to the London Gatwick drone disruption. 

‘While the aircraft was held on stand, our captain made the decision to call police to the aircraft due to a customer’s disruptive behaviour. We operate a zero tolerance policy on aggressive and abusive behaviour on board our flights. 

‘The safety and security of all our customers and crew remains our number one priority and we are doing everything possible to minimise the disruption for our customers during this time.’

Stansted Airport declined to comment. 

Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, said she saw a pregnant woman sleeping on the floor and passengers with infants spending the night in the ‘freezing’ South Terminal.

She said she got to the airport at 12.30am for a 3am flight to Cyprus via Kiev, only to find it had been cancelled and the next connection in Kiev is on Sunday.

She said: ‘I haven’t slept since yesterday morning, we are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets.

Video footage showed two police officers coming on board to defuse the situation last night

‘There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight, we saw disabled people on chairs.

‘There were young children sleeping on the floor.’

She said she will have to spend a night in Kiev, but she had been told by Ukraine International Airlines that there may be a chance of an alternative connection through Tel Aviv.

‘Hopefully they will arrange a hotel for us so we don’t have another night in an airport,’ she added.

Chris Lister, from Somerset, who owns an online business, was travelling back from Kiev with his wife Freya.

He was due to land at Gatwick at 9.45pm yesterday but ended up trapped on the plane on the Tarmac at Birmingham Airport until 6am.

‘There were quite a few babies and kids on board, I think they were struggling more than we were and one woman had run out milk,’ he said.

After starting his journey in Bangkok on Tuesday he was finally let off the plane at 6am, he said.

A Gatwick spokesman said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights today.

Queues of passengers in the check in area at Gatwick Airport today as they wait for updates

He was unable to say how many had already been affected but the first wave of flights is normally the busiest time of the day.

Around 10,000 passengers were affected last night after the runway was closed at 9.03pm.

Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport if their flight is cancelled.

Joseph Ouechen, a photographer from Morocco, was due to fly into Gatwick on Wednesday night but had his flight diverted to Paris.

After arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport at midnight, passengers with visas for the Schengen area were taken to a hotel but those without – ‘about 20 per cent’ – were left in the airport to fend for themselves, he said.

The scene inside an easyJet plane today, three hours after it landed at Manchester having been diverted from Gatwick Airport which was closed because of the sighting of drones

‘There were families with babies who couldn’t get to their suitcases for their milk and stuff,’ he said.

‘We were asking just for a favour if (airport staff) could help but they said they couldn’t do anything.’

Firefighters eventually crossed the border through passport control with blankets and water at 3.30am, he said.

‘To be honest, I’m so tired and when the guys from the fire (service) came with the bottles and blankets I was feeling like a war, like (I was) a refugee, but I’m just flying to the UK.

‘It’s surreal. I was flying to the UK and now there are firemen bringing me water and blankets.’

A helicopter flies over the runway at Gatwick Airport this morning after it was closed

Mamosta Abdulla said he was on an Iraq-bound flight yesterday evening before getting stuck on the Tarmac for four hours.

He will miss his father’s memorial service, he said.

‘We got here at 6pm and should have flown at 9.10pm, but we were stuck four hours on the plane with a crying baby, the child was disabled and everyone was sweating because it was so hot in there,’ he said.

Passengers were given a £12 voucher for food, he added, but were left to sleep ‘in a freezing place on uncomfortable chairs’.

‘We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands. But here some drones have shut down the airport.’ 

HOW CLOSE IS A NEAR MISS BETWEEN AIRCRAFT AND DRONES?

Near miss is a common term used to describe encounters between different airborne vehicles.

Governed by Airprox, there is no specific distance stated, instead it is gauged by the opinions of the pilot, air traffic controller and the drone operator. 

Earlier this year a ‘near-miss’ report was filed between a police drone and two fighter jets travelling at 520 mph.

Governed by Airprox, there is no specific distance stated, instead it is gauged by the opinions of the pilot, air traffic controller and the drone operator

The Devon and Cornwall officer was convinced there would be a collision as the military jet came into view.

The Airprox board reported the 13lbs device was flying at an altitude of around 300ft when the pilot heard a fast jet approaching.

The F-15 pilot, who was flying at an altitude of 500ft, could not see the drone but the drone pilot said the risk of a collision was ‘high’.  

Killer lasers, high-tech jammers or tracking the signal: How the police could destroy the Gatwick drone of misery… so why haven’t they already?

By Joe Pinkstone for MailOnline 

The criminal who is illegally flying a drone at Gatwick Airport is being hunted by police and military personnel using cutting-edge technology. 

Gatwick has been brought to a standstill in the wake of the rogue drone terrorising the airport.  

Several methods have been developed including laser-laden drones, high-tech jammers and tracking the signal via triangulation which may be used to end the fiasco. 

Human snipers have also been brought in to help with the pursuit of the drone.  

The Army has been working on a ‘Drone Dome’ or ‘kill-jammer’ – which can ‘soft kill’ a drone by knocking out its communications or a ‘hard kill’ by shooting it down with a laser from up to two miles away – and may use this prototypical technology. 

It remains unknown when the debacle will end and normal service will be resumed and how the drone fiasco will be drawn to a close.  

Scroll down for video 

Several methods have been developed which could be used to get rid of the drone and these include other laser-laden drones, high-tech jammers and tracking the signal via triangulation could be used to end the fiasco (file photo)

Frequency jammers and early warning systems are common near US runways but are seldom employed in the UK.  Communication between the drone and the operator can also be used to pinpoint its location through triangulation, in a similar way to mobile phone tracking.  

Is it possible to stop drones from flying in restricted areas?

Drones are a problem not only for airports – but also for prisons, where attempts have been made to send everything from phones to drugs.

The law on drones – or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) – has been tightened in recent years but Jon Parker, managing director of UK drone training company Flyby Technology, says rules are irrelevant to bad actors.

‘They will always get through. This isn’t something that rules can help with because it doesn’t matter what the rules were today, they’ve just broken those rules,’ he explained.

Geofencing is used by most off-the-shelf commercial drones, which creates a software bubble around restricted areas that block aircraft from entering, but not all drone-makers include the feature and anyone building their own machine can exclude it.

Jamming is another option, which the US Federal Aviation Authority and China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport have already tested, but Mr Parker says the technique has its setbacks, notably because many drones use the same control link signal as WiFi networks. 

Tokyo has resorted to a police drone squad to patrol important buildings and capture nuisance drones.

Aside from technological assistance, eagles and falcons have been explored as a possible solution for rogue drones, though the results were not as successful as hoped.

In 2016, Dutch police began training eagles to hunt out drones, but a year later the programme was pulled as birds were apparently not always doing what they were trained to do and because of the cost.

Police are having difficulty locating the operator as the drone disappears when they close in with via triangulation. 

The process requires constant connection and if it is lost, so is the location of the perpetrator.  As the drone disappears the signal vanishes and police are then unable to narrow down the location of the suspect.

Radio transmitters operate with a specific frequency range, one that has been set aside for RC car/aircraft use. 

If the drone is recovered, it should be a formality for the authorities to successfully identify the other component.

Physical methods of destroying the troublesome drone focus around two main ideas; a physical destruction of the device and a communications block which will see the drone lose contact with its controller and drop out the sky. 

In May, London Southend Airport tested an anti-drone system which uses a combination of radio frequency and optical sensors to detect nearby drones.

The week-long trial using Metis Aerospace’s Skyperion product saw test drones flown within a 2.5-mile (4km) radius of the airport in Essex – 40 miles away from London – for the two sensors to pick up, and it was said to have been a success.

In August, it was revealed that the British Army had bought an Israeli anti-drone system, which will be used to protect sensitive facilities in the UK.

The Multi-Mission Hemispheric Radars technology by Rada Electronic Industrials is said to provide 360-degree surveillance and be able to detect drones 3.5km (2.2 miles) away.

The Drone Dome, in which the technology is embedded, can disable an airborne drone in two seconds from its five kilowatt ‘hard kill laser effector’.

Meanwhile a system developed by three British companies which is capable of jamming signals on unmanned aerial vehicle was trialled in its first public test by the US Federal Aviation Authority in June 2016.

The Anti-UAV Defense System (Auds) system – built by Enterprise, Chess Systems and Blighter – uses high powered radio waves to disable drones, effectively blocking their communication and switching them off in mid-air.

More recently in November 2017, a ‘detective early warning system’ and ‘drone interference system’ against unmanned aerial vehicles was trialled at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in China, which has also faced issues with drones near airports.

The Cangqin system – which can work in all weather conditions – can monitor a low-altitude airspace five miles (8km) in diameter, and locate a drone three seconds after it becomes operative within the supervised range.

Earlier this year, China demonstrated the capability of its drone-killing lasers have successfully destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from 1,000 feet (300 metres) away.  

Back in Britain, research funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) found that a drone weighing 400g (14oz) could smash a helicopter windscreen, and one weighing 2kg (4lbs) could critically damage an airliner’s windscreen.

Shocking test footage shows a drone bursting a grapefruit-sized hole in an aircraft’s wing

This shocking footage shows the potential danger posed by a small drone if it crashes into a passenger jet by puncturing a hole in the aircraft’s wing. 

Experts from the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Impact Physics lab simulated a collision between a drone and an aircraft wing under test conditions. 

The footage shows the drone punch through the outer skin of the aircraft’s wing as it disintegrates. 

Experts at the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Impact Physics Lab simulated the damage caused by a drone involved in a high-speed collision with an aircraft wing

The footage showed the drone breaks up on impact put it punctures a hole in the aircraft’s outer skin, pictured

Experts fear that even an impact between a small drone and a passenger aircraft could lead to a catastrophe 

Such an impact on take off or landing could potentially lead to serious control issues endangering the safety of the aircraft and those on the ground. 

The drone appears to punch a grapefruit-sized hole into the wing – into an area many aircraft use to carry part of their fuel supply.   

A drone hit a small charter plane in Canada in 2017; it landed safely. In another incident that same year, a drone struck a U.S. Army helicopter in New York but caused only minor damage.

Mexican authorities are investigating reports that a Boeing 737-800 was struck by a drone while on approach to Tijuana airport in December 2018. 

Photographs taken after the passenger jet safely landed show extensive damage to the aircraft’s nose cone which houses some of its radar equipment.  

Airline pilot Patrick Smith of askthepilot.com said: ‘This has gone from being what a few years ago what we would have called an emerging threat to a more active threat. 

‘The hardware is getting bigger and heavier and potentially more lethal, and so we need a way to control how these devices are used and under what rules.’ 

A Boeing 737-800, pictured, suffered damage to its nose on approach to Tijuana airport in December 2018 from a suspected drone

Mechanics were forced to remove seconds of the aircraft’s nose cone which was damaged shortly before landing 

Officials were trying to confirm whether the damage was caused by a drone or where another object such as a bird hit the jet

John Cox, former airline pilot and now a safety consultant warned drones posed a greater threat to smaller aircraft and helicopters but could cause problems with a passenger jet. 

In a small aircraft the drone could smash through the windscreen into the pilot’s face. It could also be sucked into an aircraft’s engine or damage the rotor of a helicopter. 

Mr Cox said: ‘On an airliner, because of the thickness of the glass, I think it’s pretty unlikely, unless it’s a very large drone.’ 

A study by the US Federal Aviation Authority warned drones posed a greater risk than birds to aircraft as the drones carried batteries and motors which could cause more damage than a bird’s bones. 

Marc Wagner, CEO of Drone Detection Sys in Switzerland said jamming systems could disrupt a drone, but such technology is illegal in Britain. 

He said Dutch police trained eagles to swoop down on drones and knock them out of the sky near aerodromes or large concerts, but the program was ended as the birds did not always follow orders. 

According to Wagner: ‘The only method is to find the pilot and to send someone to the pilot to stop him.’  

British authorities are planning to tighten regulations by requiring drone users to register, which could make it easier to identify the pilot. 

But Wagner warned: ‘If somebody wants to do something really bad, he will never register.’ 

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