The drones are BACK as planes at Gatwick are grounded AGAIN

Flights have resumed at Gatwick after another drone sighting forced the airport to shut its runway yet again tonight. 

Planes were grounded again at 5pm tonight, throwing passengers into fresh chaos just days before Christmas as the drone pilot responsible for the havoc remained at large.  

One flight from Morocco appeared to be just moments away from landing when it was forced to divert only 1,000 feet above the ground tonight while other passengers were sitting ready for take-off when pilots told them of another sighting. 

At least 25 flights were cancelled with others severely delayed while trackers suggested planes were being diverted to Stansted, Luton and Heathrow after the last plane landed at Gatwick at 4.59pm. 

Just over an hour later Gatwick said planes had returned to the air, saying the ‘military measures in place at the airport’ would ensure the safety of passengers. 

The Army had earlier used jamming devices in the hope of knocking the drone out of the sky as police scoured the Sussex countryside in a bit to find the culprit.   

Police said they were closing in on the pilots who used ‘multiple’ drones to shut down Gatwick’s runway and even taunted officers by zooming over their heads while flashing lights at them. 

Detectives have identified ‘persons of interest’ but have failed to make any arrests 48 hours after the chaos began.

Another day of misery: Passengers wait at Gatwick’s South Terminal today, as the crisis entered a third day. The drone is confirmed to have flown over the airport again on Friday evening, prompting another closure of the runway 

Passengers wait with their luggage at Gatwick check-in desks after they were told the runway had shut again on Friday night 

Police at the scene tonight after the drone was apparently sighted again, forcing Gatwick to close its runway yet again 

A Gatwick arrivals board showed flights cancelled and severely delayed on Friday night after the latest closure 

A frustrated passenger on the phone on Friday evening after Gatwick closed its runway again amid the drone mayhem 

One plane appeared to divert just moments before landing at Gatwick as the runway was shut yet again tonight. The Air Morocco flight from Casablanca was next in line after an EasyJet plane had landed but was forced to turn away 

As the crisis entered a third day:  

  • 20 police units from two different forces and three helicopters are hunting for the drone gang
  • Police needed the Army to bring in anti-drone weapons including a jammer capable of knocking it out of the sky; 
  • Flights resumed this morning but almost 150 flights were cancelled on Friday even before the latest sighting, after 760 were grounded yesterday; 
  • Experts said the saboteur and any accomplices would have needed sophisticated modification or hacking to bypass airport security; 
  • A lone wolf eco-warrior or activists from a climate change group are the prime suspects – but remain on the run
  • Police said the drone had been sighted 50 times since the runway at Gatwick was first closed on Wednesday night ;
  • There were calls for tougher legislation against criminal drone pilots, who can only be jailed for up to five years in the UK. 

In a statement tonight, Gatwick Airport said: ‘Flights have now resumed at Gatwick following a reported drone in the area.

‘While we investigated, airfield movements were suspended. This was a precautionary measure as safety remains our main priority.

‘The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with the reassurance necessary that it is safe to reopen our airfield.’

Flights had resumed this morning after all 760 scheduled journeys were cancelled on Thursday, wrecking festive plans for 110,000 people left stranded at the airport. 

Police, the Army and MI5 spies have been combing the countryside with the prime suspects believed to be either a ‘lone wolf eco warrior’ or a larger group of climate change activists.

Sussex assistant chief constable Steve Barry said today: ‘We do have persons of interest and we are working through those with our best teams, our best investigators and there’s a huge amount of intelligence that we’re trawling through’.

He added: ‘I’m not going to say whether we think it’s more than one person. It’s a live investigation and a really significant criminal offence that’s been committed here, so we’re just keeping an open mind.’  

Amid Friday evening’s chaos Southern and Thameslink train services also reported problems because of a points failure between Horsham and Gatwick station.  

The cat and mouse game with police started at 9pm on Wednesday with drones deliberately flown over officers and the Gatwick control tower while flashing on-board lights before heading for the runway if officials tried to reopen it.

They appeared to have vanished last night after the Army used a high-tech ‘drone dome’ defence system that features a tracking system and a ‘kill-jammer’ that cuts a drone’s communications and seizes its controls. 

A similar arsenal of weapons was used by British and US forces to help liberate Mosul in Iraq and neutralise ISIS drones – but passengers trapped at Gatwick are furious the weapons were not brought in earlier.  

Security and defence consultant Declan Power told MailOnline: ‘The Gatwick situation is a very worrying development as it seems to involve technology which you can buy over the counter and has managed to cause major disruption to one of the UK’s busiest airports.

‘I am astounded that electronic countermeasures were not in place to prevent drones from approaching the airport.

‘I don’t think that this is terror related. It seems unlikely that it is an organised group. It is more likely a spotty teenager.

‘The level of disruption caused means that airports across the world have to learn from this. How was someone able to close down a major airport for more than 36 hours.

‘Police and security services are going to be highly embarrassed by these incidents. A major weak point in airline security has been identified. The person behind this seems happy to cause major disruption rather than attack aircraft.

‘But as the conflict in Syria has shown, it is not difficult to weaponise a drone which could be used in a terrorist attack. Airlines should be concerned.

‘The important lesson is the need to deploy effective electronic counter measures and to learn from these incidents.’  

A plane on the runway at Gatwick Airport tonight after planes had to be diverted and grounded following another sighting 

Flights resumed at Gatwick this morning at 6am after the Army neutralised the drone threat, but passengers caught in the chaos are furious it took so long to resolve

Police (left) and the Army (right) deployed at Gatwick have managed to shut down multiple drones using specialist jamming equipment used to battle ISIS

Sussex assistant chief constable Steve Barry says detectives have identified ‘persons of interest’ but have not made any arrests

One local resident, whose Christmas getaway has been wrecked, called the situation ‘a national embarrassment causing misery to thousands, including me and my family. 

‘How can the relevant authorities not be able to deal with this?,’ they said. 

Lena Balbek, 38, a project manager from Kiev who was visiting an agency in London, has been trying to return home since Thursday.

She said her flight with Ukraine International Airlines was re-scheduled for 7pm on Friday but it has now been pushed back until 10pm.

Asked about the closure and subsequent reopening of the airport, she said: ‘These things happen. You don’t have insurance for such things, it could happen. The well-being of passengers is the most important, I trust the security to do whatever they have to do.’

Ms Balbek said she paid for a hotel on Thursday night and does not expect to recover the costs. ‘I’m disappointed it’s been pushed back but we’re alive and if they tell us it’s okay, then I’ll feel safe,’ she added.  

How could the drone breach Gatwick’s army protection zone? 

The drone could be programmed to fly on a pre-set path over the runway to cause major disruption before continuing to its landing zone.

Amit Samani, UK sales manager at drone detection technology firm Dedrone, said it was possible for an operator to evade the army’s coverage around Gatwick Airport.

He told MailOnline: ‘There is no one singular sensor detection technology that can detect 100 per cent of drones.

‘This is why Dedrone has a multi-layered detection approach, incorporating sensor technologies such as radio frequency, cameras, radar and microphones.’

Mr Samani said: ‘Yes, it is possible for an operator to program waypoints before launch, however, this does not necessarily mean there will be no communication between the drone and the pilot, because the pilot may be watching a remote video, monitoring the drone’s position in real-time or keeping tabs on the battery life.’

He said the Dedrone platform is a ‘fully automated counter-drone solution’ which ‘detects, classifies and mitigates drone based threats’.

Sensors can visually identify drones, pick up their radio signals or even listen to the distinctive sounds of their motors. 

Wayne McAffee and his family were due to travel to Belfast via Gatwick on Thursday after 10 days at Disneyland in Orlando.

The 35-year-old, who lives in South Africa but is originally from Ireland, said they missed their connecting easyJet flight due to delays.

He said they were moved onto a different flight, which was cancelled as they stood in the check-in line, and have now booked a flight to Dublin with Aer Lingus from Heathrow on Saturday morning.

Mr McAfee said: ‘I’m sure (the airport and airline) are not enjoying this situation, I don’t think it’s their fault.

‘I’m sure everyone is working their hardest, you can see the ladies at the desk have to deal with disappointment from people. I think everyone is doing their best.

‘I’m not saying it’s a positive experience but there’s no point getting upset. Whoever is doing the drones, I’m angrier at them.’  

Laura Cammarata, 27, lives in London and was due to travel to Sicily with her partner for Christmas.

She said they were booked on to a flight with Vueling on Thursday afternoon which was rescheduled for Friday, and has since been cancelled.

‘We did the whole process again, we got the train, we started queuing up and at some point they said it’s cancelled again. We’re trying to rebook and they’re saying they can’t book us on,’ she said.  

Ana Trinanes fears she may not be able to spend Christmas with family in Spain with her second flight out of Gatwick put in jeopardy by the short closure.

The 49-year-old mother-of-two first arrived at the airport at 6am on Thursday but her flight was cancelled because of the drone chaos.

She slept overnight at the airport with fresh flights booked to eventually take her to family in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

With just two people in front of her before checking in, she was told her 8.55pm flight was delayed after a the suspected sighting on Friday.

The personal assistant said: ‘Oh my God, I want to cry, it is unbelievable – again.

‘The first time I was laughing and I was speaking with my family and telling them everything about it, I still don’t believe it. It’s just a small drone against all the police and the Army and everyone. It’s unbelievable.’ 

Another passenger had to fork out $2,000 for a one-way ticket from New York to reach the UK for Christmas from New York after her flight could not reach Gatwick on Friday morning.  

ACC Barry insisted that police snipers dotted along the runway earlier yesterday had ‘no opportunity’ to open fire – but would bring them down with shotguns if they returned and Army battlefield technology brought in last night fails.   

Passengers with their luggage in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport today after flights resumed but many face a long wait

Frustrated fliers took to Instagram on Friday night after they were told flights from Gatwick had been suspended yet again

Army officers use a laser rangefinder and a high-tech jammer to overload the drone with signals – knocking out the commands from the unknown owner. The British Army bought six of the ‘Drone Dome’ system in 2018 and the technology is used in Syria to destroy ISIS UAVs

Social media is full of complaints from people demanding to know why it took so long for the drone to be stopped

Many stranded passengers are still waiting with one woman seen sleeping sitting on a stool today and a young girl looking thoroughly fed up while waiting nearby in a queue

More than 120,000 people are expected to fly from Gatwick today but there are 110,000 more stranded from yesterday still trying to get away for Christmas

Air crew have been seen running to planes as airlines started clearing the backlog after hundreds of flights were grounded 

This is how the drone crisis unfolded at Gatwick where police appeared powerless to stop the pilot who wreaked havoc

Gatwick Airport rogue drone pilot should be jailed for TEN years says government adviser 

By Nick Fagge for MailOnline 

The malicious drone operator who closed down Gatwick Airport should face up to ten years in jail, a lawyer who has advised the government on unmanned aerial vehicles claims.

Barrister Richard Ryan says current law covering the use of unmanned aerial vehicles [uva] is outdated and the government has not headed earlier warnings about the dangers of drones.

Mr Ryan, who has advised the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] about uvas, claims the recent catastrophic disruption to Gatwick Airport may have been carried out by a foreign government.

‘The government has been caught napping about the dangers of drone,’ the 47-year-old lawyer told MailOnline.

‘The potential dangers and disruptive nature of drones was brought up in the House of Lords five years ago, but the government did not do anything.

‘There needs to clarification on the legislation covering the use of drone.

‘Currently maximum penalty for flying misusing a drone – that is flying within 1km of an airport, flying at over 400ft or endangering an aircraft is five years in prison.

‘But aggravating factors have to be taken into consideration, such as the huge cost to Gatwick Airport of the recent disruption. I wonder is the insurance companies are going to pay out?

‘So I believe in a case like this the extent and the cost of the disruption caused by the drone operator should be taken into consideration as an aggravating factor.

‘Therefore I think the maximum sentence should be increased to more like ten years.’

Mr Ryan, who has commercial drone operator license, is in the Parachute Regiment Reserves and runs the consultancy, says better technology is needed at airports ‘jam’ any potential drones.

‘Technology can be used to interfere with the transmission between the drone and the drone operator. This will instantly render the uav inoperable. In 95 per cent of cases the drone will return to the take-off site or it will hover or land where the transmission has been interrupted.’

Mr Ryan, who is a barrister operating out of Blakiston’s Chambers, says the sophisticated nature of the drones used to shut down Gatwick suggest the operator made a ‘willful effort to disrupt’ the airport.

He suggested that the operator could be working on behalf of a foreign government, could be a disgruntled Gatwick Airport employee or passenger or simply be a trouble-maker. He ruled out environmental activists.

‘This could have been the work of a foreign government,’ Mr Ryan told MailOnline. ‘He could have been sent to test the infrastructure. What if there were a co-ordinated attack on a number of British airports? We simply would not be able to cope.

‘The drone operator could be a disgruntled employee from Gatwick Airport, or a disgruntled airline passenger who passed through Gatwick Airport. It could simply be a troublemaker.

‘However I don’t think this is the work of environmental activists because Gatwick is not planning any large-scale building work. And we have not seen drones used at other environmental protest sites such as fracking.’  

ACC Barry continued: ‘We’re working on the assumption that there was more than one drone operating around Gatwick in the last 48 hours.

‘In terms of how many perpetrators, there’s a number of lines of enquiry, there’s an ongoing investigation, we’re pursuing that trying to find out who has been responsible for this really malicious criminal behaviour.’

He said there had been no opportunities to shoot down the drones, explaining: ‘We have to consider whether it’s safe to do so, it has to be dynamically assessed at the time, in terms of the risk, and we have to assess whether it’s going to be efficient, effective, how likely it’s going to be we’re going to be able to take the drone out.

‘I have to say on the range of options we’ve got available, shooting the drone out of the sky is probably one of the least effective options. It doesn’t mean to say it’s impossible, which is why we’ve got the option available to us should the option become available.’

Mr Barry said the drones could have been operated from a fair distance away, but police are focusing on ‘likely locations in and around the airport’.  

Addressing the problems with identifying suspects, he added: ‘It’s the remoteness between the officer and the drone and over the whole area around Gatwick does make it really difficult to link the drone to the operator.’ 

The chaos at Britain’s second busiest airport has threatened the Christmas holiday plans of up to 350,000 people.

A jet carrying children to Lapland was the first plane to take-off at 6.30am this morning – and 700 more flights carrying more than 120,000 people are scheduled today.

But at least 110,000 passengers have been stranded and forced to sleep on floors for up to two nights with the backlog unlikely to be cleared until Christmas Eve. 

Critics have also blasted the police, who chose not to shoot a drone down despite having snipers dotted along the runway all day yesterday. 

Gatwick is currently in a row with neighbours and environmental groups after submitting a £500million plan to use its emergency runway for hundreds of extra flights every day from around 2024. 

ACC Barry said measures to tackle the drones now include ‘technical, sophisticated options to detect and mitigate drone incursions, all the way down to less sophisticated options – even shotguns would be available to officers should the opportunity present itself.’ 

When asked about a possible motive Mr Barry said today: ‘There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities, from the really high-end criminal behaviour that we’ve seen, all the way down to potential individuals trying to be malicious, trying to disrupt the airport.

‘We’re keeping all options open.’ 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is also under pressure to explain why Britain’s second busiest airport has no anti-drone systems despite being early warning systems and jammers being common in the United States. 

Mr Grayling has insisted Britain is facing a ‘new threat’ – but today it emerged Gatwick has been troubled by drones near the runway three times in the past 18 months.  

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 50 times 

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: Another 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 

8pm: Gatwick tells passengers not to come to the airport on Friday as drone buzzes across terminals

8.30pm-9.30pm: Another sighting of the drone on Thursday evening 

10pm: The last known sighting of the drone hours after Army is deployed

3am, Friday December 21: Airport bosses deem the airspace is clear

6am: Gatwick re-opens the runway

10.30am: Flights are taking off and landing as normal

5.10pm: The runway is closed again after another suspected sighting 

Grace Lyons, who was at the airport for 29 hours, said: ‘It’s an absolute mess. It’s very worrying that a few drones can shut down an airport for so long. It’s very likely this will happen again.’ 

Jack Taylor tweeted: ‘No flights for 34 hours at Gatwick why the f*** didn’t they just shoot it down? I’ve seen drones come down off someone throwing a toilet roll at it, why did it take so long have I missed something??’ 

Aimee Trowell tweeted: ‘How embarrassing that the police and Gatwick airport have let this go on so long! How can a couple of idiots with drones cause so much chaos #LondonGatwick #dronesgatwick’.

The re-opening of the runway came after the final sighting of the drone at 10pm last night, which had buzzed over the airport more than 50 times since 9pm on Wednesday during the most disruptive airport trespass in UK history.

Detectives are investigating if the pilot is a ‘lone wolf eco warrior’ bent on grounding jets for environmental reasons and are scouring the area around the airport.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted today it could have been a larger gang of climate change activists flying several drones and refused to rule out the chance a hostile foreign country could be behind the Gatwick drone chaos. 

But police have warned the drone pilot could still try again with tens of thousands forced to sleep in the airport for two nights still waiting to hear if they will get away for Christmas. 

Today Gatwick confirmed that ‘additional mitigating measures’ were working and had given them ‘reassurance’ to re-open the runway at Britain’s second busiest airport. 

A spokesman said: ‘There are knock-on delays and cancellations to flights and we strongly recommend that you check the status of your flight with your airline before setting out for the airport today’. 

Gatwick was at a complete standstill yesterday as 760 flights were grounded and 110,000 completely stranded with up to 400,000 more people booked in to fly the end of Sunday. 

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 said. 

Bosses are still warning passengers not to travel to the UK’s second busiest – and the world’s busiest single runway airport – before checking with their airline first.

But police now have ‘a number of options’ around its perimeter to help prevent further disruption, Sussex Police assistant chief constable Steve Barry said today.

According to flight tracking website Flightradar24, a plane landed at Gatwick from East Midlands Airport at 5.58am followed by a long-haul jet from China.

The first flight to depart left at 6.33am, carrying families to meet Santa at Lapland.   

Passengers stranded queue for information at Gatwick airport today as flights finally started leaving the ground

A happy family of passengers walk through the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport today as flights resumed on the busiest day of the Christmas getaway

Passengers were spending a second night sleeping in the airport today as the hunt for the pilot entered a third day

Passengers run for their flights this morning as the airport suddenly re-opened this morning as the drone and its pilot vanished

Airport bosses say they hope to clear much of the backlog by Saturday night but many passengers say that they cannot fly until Christmas Eve or have had to cancel

Planes are taking off at a rate of one every three minutes today as Gatwick opened its runway today with queues building in terminals as thousands hoped to get away for Christmas

Passengers queue while waiting for announcements at Gatwick’s South Terminal yesterd, where tens of thousands of frustrated holidaymakers faced an unhappy end to their Christmas plans amid the drone chaos 

A departures board shows the mass of cancellations and delays at Gatwick today as a drone operator threw festive holiday plans into chaos for hundreds of thousands of people 

Gatwick chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said the airport has scheduled almost 700 departures for today.

The suspects: Who could have carried out the drone attack? 

Environmental activist group: Groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Plane Stupid have been carrying out increasingly high-profile stunts in recent months, but no one has claimed responsibility over yesterday’s action. 

Speaking to MailOnline, an Extinction Rebellion spokesman said the group had nothing to do with the drone. She added that the police had not been in contact with them about the incident at Gatwick.

‘Lone wolf’: The incident may be the work of an anarchistic loner who wanted to make an impact and cause carnage.

Foreign power: Some experts say the sophistication of the equipment used suggests a hostile foreign government may be involved.

Anti-noise campaigners: It is possible a local resident with a grudge against aircraft noise carried out the drone flights in retaliation at the airport. 

Immigration campaigners: In the wake of convictions of the ‘Stansted 15’ earlier this month, a case involving activists who stopped a deportation flight, it is possible a copycat campaigner tried to stop a planned deportation.

Extortionist: Some have suggested an extortionist could be using the financial damage caused by the drone flight to extort money out of one of the many businesses hurt. 

Mr Woodroofe, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: ‘Our advice to our passengers is to check with their airline on each of those flights that they’re intending to get, to establish whether it’s one of the flights that’s being operated or one of the flights that’s being cancelled, before they come to the airport.

‘I’d just like to apologise to all of those affected over the last 36 hours – 120,000 passengers who were due to fly to their destinations or arrive into Gatwick who have not travelled.’

Mr Woodroofe was pressed on why the airport had decided to reschedule flights while the drone had not been found, he said: ‘We have been working overnight with the police, with a number Government agencies and with the military to put in place additional mitigating measures which have enabled me to reopen our airport.’

Asked if the ‘mitigating measures’ meant the drone would be shot down, he said: ‘You’ll appreciate that there are certain things I can’t talk about in detail.’

Mr Woodroofe said he hopes the airport will be back to normal by the end of Saturday.

‘We are now operating at almost normal runway conditions and the challenge for the airlines, as the result of this disruption, their planes are not all in the right place,’ he said.

‘So what we’ll be doing today is recovering their operations so by tomorrow we are back to standard operation and continue to recover the situation for our passengers.’

He added: ‘Last night working with a number of government agencies and the military we were able to put in place a number of additional mitigating actions which gave me the confidence to re-open Gatwick Airport this morning.

‘We now have passengers arriving and departing. We are very much hoping to run a schedule today. It’s going to be disruptive. Passengers are going to be delayed. And every passenger should check with their airline before they come to the airport.

‘We are very much hoping to get 100,000 passengers on their way to destinations and back into Gatwick Airport so we can begin to recover from this 36 hour incident and get those passengers to their destinations in time for Christmas.’  

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

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said ‘military capability’ has been employed to combat a drone at Gatwick Airport.

Pressed on whether that meant ‘lasers, drone catching nets or radio wave fences’, he said: ‘There are new technologies that are now available, some purely in the military arena, some beginning to appear on the commercial market that are able to take action against drones.

‘There isn’t a single off the shelf commercial solution that does the job and so what’s happened is a variety of things have been done to create a sense, create that degree of confidence that Gatwick is now safe to fly in and out of.’

Mr Grayling, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said this was an ‘unprecedented’ situation as he rejected the idea that police could simply ‘shoot down’ the drone.

He said: ‘There is a experience recently elsewhere in the world of literally thousands of machine gun bullets being used to try and bring down the drone, failing to do so and of course you can’t just fire weapons haphazardly in what is a built up area around the airport’.   

Pilots’ union Balpa said it understood detection and tracking equipment had been installed around Gatwick’s perimeter and that if the drones reappear the airport will close again.

General secretary, Brian Strutton, said: ‘It is up to the relevant authorities to decide whether it is safe to re-open Gatwick given that the rogue drone is still around and may be expected to fly again.

‘Balpa is not aware that any special advice has been given to pilots operating into or out of Gatwick and so we have this morning ensured that all our UK pilots have Balpa’s advice on what to do if they see a drone while flying.

‘Balpa remains extremely concerned at the risk of a drone collision. It is possible that the rogue drones may go undetected around the perimeter or could obstruct the flight paths outside the immediate detection zone.

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.  

‘Given this continuing threat we have this morning issued our advice to pilots about steps to be taken if a drone is sighted.’ 

Experts believe the suspect is an organised expert rather than a ‘hobbyist’ but police have failed to track him down more than 24 hours after the crisis began. 

Armed officers carrying Heckler & Koch sniper rifles were dotted along the runway yesterday ready to shoot down the drone, which has been sighted 50 times since the chaos first hit, but were not allowed to take any shots.

In an update on its website, easyJet said: ‘Gatwick airport have confirmed that the runway is now open. We do expect that the number of departures and landings will be restricted to begin with, which means that we are likely to experience more disruption to the flying programme.

‘We would like to request our passengers to continue to check the status of their flight on the easyJet Flight Tracker.’

In response to a customer on Twitter, British Airways said: ‘We’ve received confirmation approximately 30 minutes ago from London Gatwick, advising the airport is back open and the majority of flights operating as scheduled’. 

At 9.30pm the airport’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said the drones had been sighted within the last hour.

He said: ‘Gatwick Airport is still closed, it’s closed for the rest of this evening, and our intention is to review on an ongoing basis whether we can open tomorrow. 

‘We are working up contingency plans all the way through to no flights tomorrow. 

‘My apologies to all those passengers who’ve seen this disruption from the criminal activity of these people who are purposely disrupting our airport and their travel so close to Christmas.’ 

Mr Woodroofe did not say whether Gatwick, which said it ‘shared the frustrations’ of passengers, had previously had plans in place for a drone attack. 

Earlier footage obtained by MailOnline showed 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.  

Gatwick now believes it can manage 700 departures and a similar amount of  arrivals today (pictured) as the drone tormenting them finally disappeared

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 yesterday alone

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

Revealed: Drone attack on Gatwick is the THIRD time a device has flown into its airspace in 18 months… so HOW has it happened again? 

An easyJet plane on its final approach before landing at London Gatwick Airport this morning

The chaos that saw 120,000 passengers unable to take off or land at Gatwick this week was the third time a drone has caused trouble at the airport in 18 months.

The runway was closed twice on the evening of July 2 last year – once for nine minutes and once for five minutes – after a drone was spotted flying close to it.

But that disruption only resulted in the diversion of just one British Airways and four easyJet flights – as well as some other planes put into holding patterns.

Operations were suspended that evening from 6.10pm to 6.19pm, and again from 6.36pm to 6.41pm, after a drone was spotted on the airport’s final approach path.

Then over the summer this year, a drone was said by the UK Airprox Board to have ‘put 130 lives at risk’ after nearly hitting an aircraft approaching the airport.

The flying gadget passed directly over the right wing of the Airbus A319 as it was preparing to land at the West Sussex airport in July 2018.

The incidents will raise concerns over why ‘jamming’ systems that see radiowaves fired at drones to send them out of a controlled area are still illegal in Britain.

The method sees sensors and permanent radiowave transmitters are set up around the edge of the area, ready to bombard drones detected inside the invisible ‘fence’.

This disrupts signals between the pilot and drone, forcing it to land or travel back to where it took off. The systems have been fully effective around prisons in Guernsey. 

Yesterday a Gatwick spokesperson said passengers should not come to the airport ‘for the foreseeable future including tomorrow’ when even more holidaymakers have travel plans.

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. 

As MI5 joined the investigation there were rumours that an ‘eco-activist’ was behind the sabotage, The Sun reported.  

A former Army captain told the newspaper that the attacker had showed ‘some serious capability’ and could be a ‘genius’ with a PhD. 

Richard Gill said: ‘Perhaps we are dealing with a person who just wants to do it to show how clever they are. He or she is just causing hell because they can and they want to test their limits. It’s the thrill of getting away with it.’ 

No person or group has yet claimed responsibility for the sabotage, but officials are said to be working on the theory the saboteur could be an ‘eco-warrior’. 

A Whitehall source told the Daily Telegraph that police were investigating an eco-protest as a ‘definite line of inquiry’. Environmental activist groups have previously targeted airports, in particular to protest the proposed expansion of Heathrow.   

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said there have been over 50 sightings of the drone near Gatwick Airport.

Speaking outside the South Terminal, he said: ‘We don’t know what the drone specification is. Our working assumption is it’s larger than what someone might buy online, we think it may have been adapted and developed.

‘We’re working through CCTV footage and trying to identify the make and model.

‘We will do what we can to take that drone out of the sky and remove that disruption so we can get Gatwick back to the norm.’

Mr Tingley said that shooting the drone down had become an option after other strategies failed. 

‘We have to take into consideration other people that may be in range and the impact of firing at a drone,’ he said.  

Some passengers stranded at Gatwick – the UK’s second-busiest airport – are anticipating spending the night in the terminal after hotels in the area become fully booked. 

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 has said. 

Passengers stranded are struggling to get a new flight before Christmas Eve or have had to cancel their trips completely.    

One woman gets some sleep on the Gatwick floor using her suitcase a makeshift pillow yesterday 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

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

At the 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.

One couple due to be married on Saturday are facing an anxious wait to discover if they can reach Marrakech in time for the ceremony.

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

Thousands including young children were to sleep on floors or chairs as all flight departures were grounded.

The airport said additional staff will be on the ground during the night to patrol for vulnerable passengers, including those with young children and the elderly.

Water is being handed out throughout the terminals, the airport said, and food and beverage outlets are being stocked up with fresh supplies, with heating remaining turned on throughout the night.

As officers hunted for the drone police described the devices as ‘industrial’ models and are treating the incident as ‘a deliberate act to disrupt the airport’.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday 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’.

A Number 10 spokesman said there had been a ‘cross-Whitehall meeting of officials although not a full COBRA gathering’ this afternoon.  

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 U.S. runways.  

Experts said they had been trying to raise concerns about drones with ministers for more than two years and the Government had ‘repeatedly dragged its feet’. 

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. 

The saboteur could even be bringing chaos with a pre-programmed drone.  

Drone expert Carys Kaiser, active online as The Drone Lass, told MailOnline the disruption was unlikely to be the work of a ‘hobbyist’.  

She said: ‘It is definitely something that is more organised in some capacity because the drones that I fly and the drones that most people fly in the UK have geofencing and we can’t get them to take off that close to an airport.

‘It’s definitely not a hobbyist who’s thinking I’ll get some extra footage for a YouTube channel. So this is somebody that has possibly hacked their software or possibly modified their drone in some way.

‘[The manufacturers] have all developed this software to ensure that people can’t just take a drone near an airport and take off.

‘You get lock zones, so you’ll get a yellow zone that could be a stately home or a football ground – it will say to you do you have permission, and you have to put in details and the manufacturer knows who it is, and if there was an incident they could trace it.

‘When you get an airport that’s a red zone, and you can’t unlock it unless you get written permission from an airport. You have to submit documentation, wait for five days and then you get an unlock code so you can fly.

‘As with anything that’s malicious, people will hack the software, modify the drones to get around all of that. If you’ve got malicious intent, you’ve got a malicious mind, you don’t abide by the rules.’ 

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

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s CEO, said it ‘cannot be right’ that a major international airport could be targeted in this way.  

He said: ‘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.

‘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. 

A drone is seen in Gatwick’s airspace on Thursday morning as the crisis caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled

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

Tens of thousands of passengers have been suffering travel chaos after drones were 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, 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.

The £2.6m Israeli ‘Drone Dome’ system that the Army used to defeat the Gatwick UAV after the technology was developed to fight ISIS in Syria

The Army used a cutting-edge Israeli anti-drone system to destroy the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that brought misery to hundreds of thousands of people at Gatwick airport. 

The British Army bought six ‘Drone Dome’ systems for £15.8 million in 2018 and the technology is used in Syria to destroy ISIS UAVs. 

Police had been seen on Thursday with an off-the-shelf DJI system that tracks drones made by that manufacturer and shows officers where the operator is (DJI is the most popular commercial drone brand.)  

However, the drone used at Gatwick is thought to have been either hacked or an advanced non-DJI drone, which rendered the commercial technology used by the police useless. 

At that point, the Army’s ‘Drone Dome’ system made by Rafael was called in. Details of the system are publicly available.

Army officers use a high-tech radar and a laser rangefinder to locate drones within a 2.1 and 6.2 miles radius.

Once the system has a lock on the drone, a radio frequency jammer is then used to overload the drone with signals – knocking out the commands from the unknown owner. 

This can be used to make a ‘soft-kill’ and cease control of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and land it safely. 

The system also comes with a high-powered laser which can make a ‘hard-kill’ on drones by effectively melting them, but the British Army did not buy this version.  

The DJI Aerospace AeroScope device (pictured left), a briefcase-sized machine with two protruding antennae, was spotted being used by police on a rooftop around Gatwick. It is designed to detect drones by manipulating the radio frequency it is operated on 

It is believed a laser rangefinder (right) and a high-tech jammer (left) were present and may have been used to overload the drone with signals – knocking out the commands from the unknown owner

What should you do if you have a flight from Gatwick Airport? 

If you are due to fly from or to Gatwick:

  • Do not travel to the airport before checking your flight status
  • Call your airline and check Gatwick’s website for updates

If your flight is already cancelled:

  • Talk to your airline to arrange an alternative flight – avoid rebooking it yourself if possible
  • If you make any other arrangements, or have to pay for accommodation or transport, keep all receipts and tickets
  • Check with your insurer or credit card provider whether you are covered

George Burne, a UAV strategist at COPTRZ, a commercial drone firm based in Leeds, told MailOnline that the likely way the Gatwick saga concluded was with the criminal’s capture. 

COPTRZ supply high-end commercial drones as well as anti-drone technology.

The DJI Aerospace AeroScope device, a briefcase-sized machine with two protruding antennae, was spotted being used by police on a rooftop around Gatwick. 

It is a complex piece of equipment which is designed to detect drones by manipulating the radio frequency it is operated on.  

It allows authorities to piggybacks this signal without the operator knowing with a ‘sleeper-bot’. 

With sufficient time, specialists can utilise the GPS capacity of the drone to identify the location of the perpetrator, where the drone is, its make and model and also the flight-path the machine has been on. 

Once police have this information, they are able to active a feature which is in-built in all drones known as ‘return to home’.

This ground-based device is used throughout industry and at many events to ensure protection from drones. 

‘The detection system is able to pick up frequencies from up to 20 km (12 miles) away and gives a huge radius to spot the machines,’ Mr Burne told MailOnline. 

‘By identifying the signal the drone uses the authorities would be able to know everything about the drone and its operator.’

The AeroScope uses the drone’s GPS (pictured) to find location, flight path and even its home location. With sufficient time, specialists can utilise the GPS capacity of the drone to identify the location of the perpetrator, where the drone is, its make and model and also the flight-path the machine has been on

DJI Aerospace AeroScope (pictured) allows authorities to piggybacks the signal of DJI drones  without the operator knowing with a ‘sleeper-bot’

This ground-based device is used throughout industry and at many events to ensure protection from drones. ‘The detection system is able to pick up frequencies from up to 20 km (12 miles) away and gives a huge radius to spot the machines,’ Mr George Burne, a UAV strategist, told MailOnline

This was the first picture of the drone causing chaos at Gatwick. Flights have now resumed as Gatwick tries t clear the backlog of flights and passengers 

Mysterious and top-secret technology was spotted around Gatwick last night and some has remained unidentified by experts 

Pursuits of the Garwick drone were hindered by stringent UK regulations which prohibit the use of signal jammers. Other nations have large guns (pictured) which can ground rogue drones 

Hunt to find who is behind the drone chaos: Ministers refuse to rule out foreign power as police probe theories that eco warrior or extremist activists caused Gatwick mayhem and ruined Christmas for thousands

A lone wolf eco-warrior or a group of climate change activists could be behind the most damaging drone assault on a UK airport in history.

Airports are prime targets for environmental demonstrators who have chained hemsleves to aircraft, invaded runways and blocked access roads in recent years. 

The sabotage which grounded hundreds of flights and left thousands stranded is believed to have been ‘targeted’ and the sophistication of the equipment involved suggests it was well-planned and financed.

Gatwick is currently at the centre of a bitter row over plans to use its emergency runway to bring more than 100,000 additional flights a year.

Police investigating the attack do not think it is terror related but Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today refused to rule out it being the actions of a foreign state.

Climate action movement Extinction Rebellion have stage a series of stunts in recent months, including this ‘die-in’ at a Cambridge shopping centre

Asked if it was possible the drone was being operated by an agent of a foreign government, Mr Grayling told BBC Breakfast: ‘I don’t want to speculate on that, we genuinely don’t know who it is or what the motivation was.’

‘I think it’s unlikely to be, but at the moment I’m not ruling out anything’, he added.

The Cabinet minister also said that whoever the perpetrator or perpetrators were, they needed to ‘go to jail for a long time’.

If no foreign agent was involved, that suggests three possibilities are among potential suspects; an organised campaign group, a lone eco-extremist or an anarchic hobbyist looking to cause carnage.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the drones, suggesting it is more likely to be a ‘lone wolf’ activist. Pictured: Extinction Rebellion in London

The most high-profile ‘direct action’ groups in the UK include Extinction Rebellion, who shut down central London in anti-traffic protests last month, and Plane Stupid, whose members chained themselves to Heathrow’s runway in 2015.

Speaking to MailOnline amid a protest outside BBC Broadcasting House today, an Extinction Rebellion spokesman said: ‘We want to bring the climate emergency up to the top of the agenda in the media.’

The spokesman added that her group had nothing to do with the drone. She added that the police had not been in contact with them about the incident at Gatwick.

Meanwhile 15 activists are facing jail after storming into Stansted Airport and grounding a Home Office deportation plane heading to Africa in March 2017.

The group caused chaos using bolt cutters on the perimeter fence and chained themselves to a 767 chartered to transport detainees from UK detention centres back to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. They will be sentenced on February 4.

But nobody has yet claimed responsibility, raising suspicions that it a saboteur acting alone. 

Police are still hunting the person or gang flying the unmanned aircraft (pictured) – but do not believe the sabotage is terror-related with eco-warriors the prime suspects

Pollution fears over Gatwick’s plans to use its emergency runway for passengers

Gatwick Airport plans to widen its emergency runway to bring it into full passenger use.

The scheme, revealed in October, would enable the UK’s second busiest airport to accommodate up to 109,000 extra flights a year.

Opponents of Gatwick expansion claim the proposal would increase the problems of noise, air pollution and road congestion already suffered by surrounding communities.

A bid to build a new second runway was rejected by the UK Government in favour of Heathrow expansion in December 2016.

The airport says it could begin using its emergency runway for regular flights by the summer of 2025, just months before Heathrow’s third runway is due to open.

The centre lines of Gatwick’s main and emergency runways are separated by 198 metres. The plan involves increasing the gap by widening the emergency runway by 12 metres.

Its main runway would continue to be used for larger planes to take off and all aircraft to land but smaller aircraft such as the A321, A320 and B737 could take off from the emergency runway.

The airport expects to spend up to £500million on the airfield works. Once opened, annual flight numbers are expected to increase from 281,000 today to as many as 390,000 in 2032-33, according to Gatwick’s figures.

Sussex Police, whose officers patrol the airport, today revealed that Scotland Yard and officers from neighbouring Surrey Police have joined the manhunt. 

Steve Coulson, managing director of drone detection firm Coptrz, said it appeared to be a ‘targeted attack’ that could have originated abroad.

He told the Times: ‘The operator may not even be in the country. You can have a secure internet link from China or Russia and control it remotely, just like we control drones remotely from Arizona and fly them over Afghanistan.

‘I’m surprised how brazen this is. I thought we might get some low-level stuff this year but somebody or some group are pushing the envelope.’

Some 350,000 people face having their Christmas plans ruined as disruption continued at Gatwick today. 

Drone expert Carys Kaiser told MailOnline: ‘It’s definitely not a hobbyist who’s thinking I’ll get some extra footage from a YouTube channel.

‘It is definitely something that is more organised in some capacity because obviously the drones that I fly and the drones that most people fly in the UK have this geofencing and we can’t get them to take off that close to an airport.

‘So this is somebody that has possibly hacked their software or possibly modified their drone in some way.’

Ms Kaiser added: ‘[The manufacturers] have all developed this software to ensure that people can’t just take a drone near an airport and take off.

‘You get lock zones, so you’ll get a yellow zone that could be a stately home or a football ground – it will say to you do you have permission, and you have to put in details and the manufacturer knows who it is, and if there was an incident they could trace it.

‘When you get an airport that’s a red zone, and you can’t unlock it unless you get written permission from an airport. You have to submit documentation, wait for five days and then you get an unlock code so you can fly.

‘As with anything that’s malicious, people will hack the software, modify the drones to get around all of that. If you’ve got malicious intent, you’ve got a malicious mind, you don’t abide by the rules.’ 

Campaigners stage a protest against expansion at London Heathrow Airport in 2016

A former Army captain told The Sun that the attacker had showed ‘some serious capability’ and could be a ‘genius’ with a PhD. 

Richard Gill said: ‘Perhaps we are dealing with a person who just wants to do it to show how clever they are.

‘He or she is just causing hell because they can and they want to test their limits. It’s the thrill of getting away with it.’ 

No person or group has yet claimed responsibility for the sabotage, but officials are said to be working on the theory the saboteur could be an ‘eco-warrior’. 

A Whitehall source told the Daily Telegraph that an eco-protest was a ‘definite line of inquiry’. 

Environmental activist groups have previously targeted airports, in particular to protest the proposed expansion of Heathrow.  

When asked why someone would want to disrupt the airport, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘There’s no sense of motive – there’s no suggestion that this is a terrorist act. 

‘The counter-terrorist police have been very clear that they’ve seen no evidence that this is intended to be a terrorist act. It’s clearly someone who wants to disrupt Gatwick Airport and there’s an intense police operation.

‘We’ve got two police forces in Surrey and Sussex working together to try and catch the perpetrator, supported by the Met, supported by the counter-terrorism police and no evidence of a terrorist link at the moment.’ 

Sussex Police also said that ‘our assessment, based upon the information that we have available to us, is that this incident is not terrorism-related’.   

Couple who face cancelling their wedding in Morocco are among the thousands of passengers STILL waiting to jet off for Christmas after being caught in the Gatwick drone chaos

A couple due to be married tomorrow and their wedding party face further uncertainty at Gatwick Airport following severe flight disruption caused by drones.

Bride-to-be Tayo Abraham and her partner Ope Odedine were due to fly to Marrakesh in Morocco on Wednesday alongside nine family and friends.

The group boarded the Air Arabia flight, due to depart at 8.40pm, and were kept onboard ‘in the dark’ until 2am.

Bride-to-be Tayo Abraham (centre) surrounded yesterday by her friends in the wedding party, at Gatwick Airport who were due to fly to Marrakesh in Morocco but face more uncertainty

Gatwick’s runway only reopened at 6am today having been shut since Wednesday night due to devices flying over it, with chief executive officer Stewart Wingate saying they were designed to ‘close the airport and bring maximum disruption’.

Thousands of families faced heartache as the chaos at Gatwick left holiday plans in ruins. Children wept as they learned their flights were cancelled, and plans for family reunions were abandoned, just days before Christmas.

Some were left in limbo, waiting for hours at the packed airport to learn if their flights would finally go ahead. Tempers frayed as stranded passengers crammed into every available space, and berated airline staff for the lack of any updates.

Miss Abraham, 31, a contractor from Glasgow, said: ‘It’s been a year that we’ve been planning this, we can’t start rearranging the wedding.

Passengers stranded last night at Gatwick Airport, which only reopened at 6am this morning

Family trip to Lapland  ruined by a drone

Natalie Carsey had hoped to take Immy and Patrick to Lapland

Finance director Natalie Carsey, 43, had saved up all year to take her children Patrick, nine, and Immy, seven, on a day trip to see Father Christmas in Lapland.

Mrs Carsey, from Hertfordshire, said: ‘We had saved all year, and waited all year, for this. My daughter Immy has been crying since finding out. 

‘I’ve been ringing around desperately trying to find another holiday but they’re all booked. The travel agents are going to try to give us a full refund but it’s very disappointing.

‘We’re heartbroken. Seeing Immy cry has made me tearful.’ Angry father Rob Threadgold was at the airport to take his two young sons on another ‘Santa flight’ to Lapland.

He tweeted: ‘To whoever is doing this at Gatwick. I wish you could see my kids right now and the devastation you have caused.’

‘It’s sad because it’s Christmas time and people are trying to get to loved ones. Everything has been disrupted but aside from the cost it’s the emotional side, the trauma.’

The group, including a four-year-old and a one-year-old, booked a hotel for the night after passengers were told to return to the airport at 11am yesterday.

Following another day of disruption, Ms Abraham and her fiance then booked an alternative flight from Manchester Airport for this morning at a cost of over £1,000.

She said they may have to ‘trim’ back on guests as the additional cost of rebooking flights was too high for everyone to pay.

She said: ‘Most of the guests are there already. We have to be there. I just want to get there and get this over with, but it will be disappointing for everyone that isn’t able to travel.’

The couple are due to fly back on December 26, with other members due to return to the UK on Sunday.

Ms Abraham’s uncle Baba Sanwo, from San Diego, flew into Heathrow from the US on Tuesday in anticipation of Wednesday’s flight, hoping to travel as a family.

The 63-year-old said he had been sat on the floor of Gatwick for over five hours.

He said: ‘I’m uncomfortable, cold and hungry. What if there are people on medication, what if there was a wedding today?’

Stella Phillips, the bride-to-be’s aunt, from London, said: ‘There’s no information. Gatwick have been fine but they don’t have any information for you, they say go to your airline.’

Andy Ravenscroft with children Anders and Erica as the chaos at Gatwick Airport continues 

Mother-of-two’s tears as Christmas in her homeland is cancelled 

Mother Liliana Cabrera broke down as she learned her flight to take her sons to visit their grandparents in Colombia had been cancelled.

The 41-year-old had planned a three-week trip to Bogota with Isaac, six, and Leonardo, five, and had five suitcases filled with Christmas presents for her family.

The museum worker from Greenwich, South East London, arrived at the airport at 3.45am only to find her 10am flight was cancelled.

Liliana Cabrera with sons Isaac, six, and Leonardo, five, at Gatwick Airport

Another flight was announced for 2pm but when the family went to the gate, as directed, they were simply given their luggage back.

‘I don’t want to cry but we just wanted to see my family at Christmas,’ she said.

‘Now we’re waiting to see what we have to do next. We’re hoping somehow we can still get to Colombia. [Staff have] said, ‘You need to go home.’ Our cases are full of Christmas presents for my parents and brother and sister.’

The 41-year-old said the group paid £300 for the hotel on Wednesday and they are unsure whether they can recover the costs.

Mrs Phillips said: ‘This kind of thing can be avoided. You’re saying you’re trying to prevent loss of life, but you know it’s a drone.

‘Couldn’t they have brought the military in ages ago? It might take another 24 hours for them to do what they want to do.’

Meanwhile Gisele Fenech, 43, who was travelling to Malta, was among those stranded at the airport yesterday.

‘We’re meeting family and it’s my daughter’s birthday today so it’s gone all wrong. We’ve been looking forward to this for so long,’ she told AFP. ‘Everyone’s trying to get home for Christmas.’

Musab Rashid, 22, who was going to Copenhagen, said: ‘It’s wrong, it’s childish of them to do this, because it’s affected more than 100,000 people.’  

Meanwhile Andrew and Siv Ravenscroft were on their way to a Christmas family reunion in Norway with children Anders, 12, and nine-year-old Erica.

The family had flown from their home in Jersey to Gatwick on Wednesday night to catch a flight to Oslo, but their first flight was diverted to Stansted, where their plane was kept on the tarmac for three hours.

They paid £180 for a taxi from Stansted to Gatwick, only to find that their next flight from Gatwick to Oslo had been cancelled.

In desperation, the family spent another £1,000 for four tickets from Heathrow on a flight today. Mr Ravenscroft, 50, said: ‘When we landed at Stansted we were stuck on the tarmac for three hours.

‘People were shouting, saying they just wanted to get off.

‘We were told there would be three coaches to get us to Gatwick, but there was nothing. We had to pay £180 for a taxi.

Robert and Susan Pocknell only moved 20ft despite queuing for almost four hours at Gatwick

Off to Birmingham after Toronto flight cancelled

Mother Pam Noakes was waiting to take her young children to spend Christmas with their grandparents in Canada.

The mother-of-two was due to fly from Gatwick to Toronto, but was told at the airport that the flight would be leaving from Birmingham instead.

Pam Noakes and her children, aged five and two, pictured stranded at Gatwick Airport 

Mrs Noakes, whose children are aged five and two, said: ‘They’re apparently putting on a coach to Birmingham.

‘It should be leaving soon, because everyone has been told to get their suitcases checked in. It would have been my children’s first Christmas in Canada with their grandparents. We’ll have to see if we actually get there.’

‘We finally arrived at 3.30am for a 9am flight. They let us check our bags in so we thought we were travelling, then they called us to the gate and gave them back.

‘We’ve now paid £1,000 for four one-way tickets to Norway for Friday morning from Heathrow. We’re worried there will be a knock-on effect at other airports and we might not even make it.’ 

He added: ‘The drone is really worrying. Anything could have been dropped on the runway. It’s no wonder they take it so seriously.’ 

Pensioners Robert and Susan Pocknell were due to fly to Spain for Christmas.

They arrived at Gatwick shortly before 4am but were greeted by scenes of chaos, and had to join a massive queue to try to change flights. 

After queuing for almost four hours, the couple from Hillingdon, West London, had moved barely 20ft in the queue, which stretched around the south terminal.

Mr Pocknell, 78, said: ‘Everybody was arguing. There was no organisation whatsoever. No one even showed us where this queue was, we had to find it ourselves.

‘We’re going on a package holiday so I’m worried if we don’t get to Malaga before Sunday we’ll lose our room and won’t have a hotel to stay in. I just want a refund and a new flight.

‘We haven’t even been offered any vouchers to get a bottle of water. It’s a shambles.’ 

His 70-year-old wife added: ‘We’re British, so we just have to smile and get on with it. I’m more peeved that I might have to go home and cook.’

The scramble to get home for Christmas: Thousands of passengers stranded across the world by Gatwick drone chaos fear they may be stuck as far as 4,100 miles away for festive season

British air passengers stranded around the world are facing a scramble to get home for Christmas as the shockwaves from Gatwick’s drone chaos spread around the globe.

The closure of Britain’s second busiest airport for more than 30 hours yesterday due to a rogue drone pilot saw scores of flights cancelled and many passengers left in limbo after being diverted to other terminals in Europe.  

Those trapped in foreign airports spoke of being forced to sleep on floors and visa complications as the knock-on effects hit other terminals. 

Worse still, the huge backlog of flights now waiting to fly into Gatwick means many people stuck abroad face a nervous wait to see if they’ll get home for the holidays. 

Many are having to fork out for alternative flights, often hopping around the globe in a bid to eventually return to Britain. 

Among those stranded abroad are 27 schoolgirls from the Bruton School in Somerset. They were due to be back with their families last night, but had to stay on in Innsbruck, Austria following a ski trip. 

Teachers are hoping they can get on a flight today to return to their anxious parents. 

British air passengers have been left stranded around the world due to Gatwick’s rogue drone

Others are now stuck in terminals around Europe after their flights were diverted in mid-air

More than 120,000 passengers were unable to either take off or land at the airport from 9pm on Wednesday and throughout Thursday. 

A further 126,000 passengers were due to travel today, but 145 out of the scheduled 837 flights have already been cancelled as aircraft are out of position and the airport’s operations are restricted to just a few departures and arrivals per hour.

Holidaymakers who went on pre-Christmas breaks to the Caribbean face long delays in getting back.

Some are now flying to New York, before transferring on flights to Europe and then getting Eurostar trains to London, with some journeys planned over three days.

Londoner Jennifer, who is stuck in Jamaica, tweeted Gatwick bosses saying: ‘I would like to get home for Christmas, but I’m stranded abroad at the moment. Is there any chance you could shoot the drones down?’

Dan Walters, from Wales, posted online: ‘Flight from Antigua to Gatwick cancelled this evening. Now having to fly to New York tomorrow and then on to Heathrow.’ 

However, he saw the funny side, joking: ‘There are worse places to be stranded though..’

Jon Carles and his partner are stuck in Lanzarote. Speaking yesterday, he told MailOnline: ‘We were supposed to be to flying back to Gatwick today with EasyJet, but no one knows what’s going on here and what’s going to happen.

‘Managed to get through to easyJet after 45 minutes on hold and they told us to wait until 6pm and see what happens. And if gets cancelled we can’t get a flight back with them for 48hours.’ 

One flyer hoping to reach London had to land in Paris – where he was told that he’d be diverted back to the UK on a bus. Others paid for hotels in the French capital out of their own pockets after failing to get information from their airlines. 

Corinne Roberts said that her parents-in-law were stuck in a departure lounge in Brussels as their visa don’t allow them to enter the country beyond that point. 

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.

‘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.’

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

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.’

Those who didn’t find themselves stuck abroad had to land more than 100 miles from their destination once they made their way back to the UK.

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. 

Gareth Jones praised easyJet’s response to the chaos, telling MailOnline: ‘My son was due to fly home from Salzburg this morning on an Easyjet flight that was obviously cancelled.

‘They have transferred him to the same flight tomorrow and put him up in a four-star hotel, with meals, overnight.

‘Fortunately, he has no work commitments or time issues so it’s not a bad deal at the end of the day. easyJet get some bad press but this is good service on their part.’ 

Sally Gardiner, who is in Nice, France, said: ‘The problems caused by this malicious person extend way beyond Gatwick. My son was to join me in Nice today for a break before Christmas.

‘I don’t see him very often so my disappointment is immense. 

‘I have also paid in advance for his accommodation. 

‘I have French friends who were due to fly from Nice to Gatwick tomorrow for connecting flight to USA to spend Christmas with families there. The knock on effect is massive.’ 

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.

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