Sunday 14 April 2019 6:42 pm

Gatwick Christmas drone attack was possible inside job, says airport’s response chief

City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email:

City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email:

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A drone attack at Gatwick airport which brought 140,000 people’s Christmas travel plans to a standstill was an inside job, according to its chief operating officer.

Read more: After Gatwick, how do we prevent future drone chaos?

Chris Woodrofe, who led the airport’s response to the attack, told the BBC: “It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport.”

The incident left Britain’s second-busiest airport on lockdown for 33 hours, and military personnel were eventually called in to put an end to the disruption.

In his first interview since the event, Woodrofe said whoever was piloting the drone could either see what was happening on the runway, or was following the airport’s actions by eavesdropping on radio or internet communications.

Woodrofe said the perpetrator selected a drone that could not be seen by the DJI Aeroscope drone detection system the airport was testing at the time of the attack.

His view is shared by Sussex police, which said the possibility of the pilot being an insider “was treated as a credible line of enquiry from the earliest stages of the police response”. It said there was even a small chance the pilot could have been working within the airport complex.

But despite a huge police operation drawing resources from five other forces and a £50,000 reward, there is still no trace of the culprit.

It has also emerged that Gatwick spent £5m on anti-drone equipment in the days after the attack.

Woodrofe said the airport bought two sets of the AUDS (Anti UAV Defence System) anti-drone system. AUDS was one of two systems the military used at the airport on the evening of 20 December, the second day of disruption.

“The equipment I have on site today is painted sand yellow because it comes straight from the military environment,” he said.

Read more: MPs launch inquiry into risks of drones

The interview with Woodrofe will air at 8.30pm tomorrow on BBC Panorama.