Gatwick Airport runway closed and flight diverted after suspected drone causes disruption

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Flying drones near airports is heavily restricted (Source: Getty)

Gatwick Airport closed a runway and diverted at least one flight this evening after unconfirmed reports of a drone being flown nearby.

The runway at Gatwick was closed for two short periods today, a spokesperson for the airport said, with at least one Easyjet flight diverted to another airport because of the closure.

The Easyjet flight was forced to land at London Stansted rather than at Gatwick, the UK's second-busiest airport after Heathrow, according to flight news site Airlive.

The runway, which was reopened, is now believed to be operating as usual while the airport authorities investigate. The airport's spokesperson could not confirm if a drone caused the disruption before the investigation was completed.

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The spokesperson for the airport said: "Due to unconfirmed reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 1810 and 1819 and again from 1836 to 1841, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

"Operations have resumed and the police continue to investigate.”

Flying drones near airports is heavily restricted. Drone operators need permission for the air traffic control unit for the airport.

Owners of camera-fitted drones are legally required to seek permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly within 150m of either a congested area or within 50m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control.

Authorities around the world have been scrambling to catch up with a regulatory system for drones in recent years as numbers of commercially available devices have burgeoned.

The potential market for drones is estimated to be worth $127bn globally, according to beancounters PwC.

Read more: It's time to start preparing for the City of Drones