After the drones at Gatwick were allegedly first sighted on the night of Wednesday 19th December, there has been intense police and press activity.
Here is what we understand to be the timeline sequence of events so far.
- Gatwick closes its runway on Wednesday night with drones reported flying over and near the airport.
- The runway reopens then closes after more alleged sightings of drones at Gatwick.
- Sussex police identify the drones at Gatwick as a “deliberate act” of disruption, as they begin to search for the drone operator.
- The runway remains closed on Thursday 20th December after the alleged sightings of more drones at Gatwick.
- Over 100,000 people are affected with 760 flights delayed or cancelled. with some incoming flights diverted to other airports.
- The minister Chris Grayling and the Prime minister condemn the drones at Gatwick.
- Chris Graying calls in the army to provide specialist counter drone equipment.
- There is an emergency meeting in Whitehall to respond to the aviation crisis.
- A limited number of flights arrive and depart from Gatwick.
- Sussex police Assistant Chief Constable says the sightings of drones at Gatwick are unprecedented for the malicious and criminal behaviour at Gatwick.
- The Gatwick runway is closed again for a short while on Friday 21 December due to more suspected drone sightings.
- The Gatwick runway reopens due to the military counter measures in place.
- Disruption continues to affect flights because of the extensive backlog of passengers in the airport.
- A man and woman are arrested in Crawley on Friday night for the criminal use of drones at Gatwick, after a tip off from the public.
- The man Paul Gait and his wife Elaine are released without charge 36 hours later on Sunday morning.
- The airport is offering a £50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the drone operators.
- Sussex police Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley says that there is a possibility that the drone may not have existed as they now have to defend their investigation of the 67 reported drone sightings.
- Parts of a damaged drone have been found by a member of the public near Gatwick and police forensics are now investigating.
- Gatwick airport release a statement saying that 140,000 passengers were disrupted and over 1,000 flights cancelled.
Massive Press Speculation About Drones at Gatwick
The press and social media activity has been savage and frantic against drones and in the last two days, they then turned on the man and woman arrested.
Their photos, identity and where they live was on the front of all of the Sunday newspapers. The Mail on Sunday had over 12 pages dedicated to the drone at Gatwick.
However in a balanced debate we should look at the other information or lack of it. Here are a few relevant facts not widely reported:
- There have been no clear sightings photos or videos of Drones at Gatwick. This seems incredible, with the number of world media, police and over 100,000 affected people at Gatwick with mobile phones.
- Not one YouTube video of drone at Gatwick exists, doesn’t that seem very strange.
- The weather was not good at Gatwick on Wednesday and Thursday, with high winds and rain. Drones don’t perform very well in these conditions.
- There was a walk out strike planned at Gatwick on Friday 21 December by members of the Unite union over an ongoing wage dispute.
- Birmingham Airport was closed for two hours yesterday with flights delayed, diverted or cancelled because of an air traffic control fault.
Now Sussex police have admitted there is a clear possibility that there were no drones at Gatwick, no doubt the conspiracy theories will come thick an fast.
When We Fly Near Airports
Drone Photography Services fly drones commercially owning and flying a selection of DJI drones. We have flown our drones near and at airports in the last two years. The DJI Geo fencing technology does work, we have to unlock the No Fly Zones (NFZ) on a regular basis. See below the current DJI No Fly Zone around Gatwick:
We are in touch with Air Traffic control when we are flying, they know our drone is in the air.
When we are flying our drones within the airport perimeter it is very straight forward, because we are under the control of the ATC tower, and we are viewed by them as another aircraft.
In conclusion there are adequate laws in place in the UK, the CAA have a good knowledge and control of drone operations in the UK, but this has not stopped totally ridiculous media reporting.
If a drone did fly near Gatwick in the last 5 days then in our opinion it was hacked and was flying there to cause maximum disruption to the airport.
However the consistent lack of real evidence of any drone activity, the approach by Sussex police, and the approach by the government does fuel the though “that there is something not right with this whole event”.
We remain very skeptical and hope the truth does come out in the next few weeks.