Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Gatwick drone was an inside job, police say

The airport has now installed anti-drone equipment to avoid a similar disruption in the future

FILE PHOTO: Passengers walk through the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Passengers walk through the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

A drone that shutdown London’s Gatwick Airport in December could have been operated by someone inside the airport, according to local police.

A Sussex Police spokesman said the force was treating the idea of an insider job as a “credible line of enquiry from the earliest stages of the police response”.

Gatwick’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, also believes the person handling the drone knew the airport expertly and might have broken into the internal communication system.

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

The incident took place just days before Christmas last year, when 140,000 passengers meant to board more than 1,000 flights suffered delays and last-minute cancellations as police shut down the runways.

Mr Woodroofe said he did not regret the precautions undertaken by the airport.

"There is absolutely nothing that I would do differently when I look back at the incident, because ultimately, my number one priority has to be to maintain the safety of our passengers, and that's what we did,” he said.

Police have been unable to find the owner of the drone, despite offering a £50,000 reward.

Counter-drone technology has since been installed at Gatwick, easily spotting any devices hovering over the area.

The airport installed two anti-drone systems, one of which was used by the military back in December.

The technology is able to shoot down drones from far off.

Updated: April 15, 2019 01:29 PM

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