Thursday 3 January 2019 10:16 am
Army withdraws anti-drone equipment from Gatwick following Christmas travel chaos
Military equipment installed at Gatwick to stop drones disrupting flights has now been removed, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said today. The army was deployed to the airport shortly before Christmas to help bring an end to the saga that affected roughly 1,000 flights. Israeli-developed systems designed to jam drone signals were reportedly among the military-grade equipment installed by the army. Police snipers were also brought in.
An MoD spokesperson today said: “The military capability has now been withdrawn from Gatwick. The armed forces stand ever-ready to assist should a request for support be received.”
Gatwick was closed repeatedly between 19 and 21 December, causing disruption to thousands of passengers, after numerous sightings of drones over the airfield.
The airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, described the acts as “highly targeted”, saying they were “designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run-up to Christmas”.
Sussex Police arrested Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk from Crawley on suspicion of “criminal use of a drone”, before releasing them without charge.
Giles York, Sussex Police chief constable, apologised to the couple, but defended his decision to hold them for 36 hours.
He told the Today Programme some drone sightings may have related to police drones, admitting they may have caused “some level of confusion”. The force later denied its drones contributed to the disruption.
Gatwick Airport has offered a £50,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible.