- Dozens of police hunting for expert drone pilot likely to be operating in a five mile zone around the airport
- All 760 flights in and out of Gatwick Airport today under threat as bosses shut runway until at least 4pm
- Gatwick CEO and police reveals incursions are deliberate as snipers are readied to shoot any drones down
- Disruption at the airport will run into Friday and Saturday - the busiest days of the Christmas getaway
- Experts believe pilot is highly-skilled and using expensive industrial drones with a range of five miles or more
- Chaos began at 9pm yesterday with flight ban in place due to at least ten incursions over the main runway
- A large drone could bring down a passenger jet if it was sucked into jet engine or smashed hole in aircraft
- ** Caught up in the Gatwick chaos? Please email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
The is the first footage of the drone that has shut down Gatwick for 24 hours as the Army was called in to help shoot it down and the 110,000 people stranded on the ground warned the chaos could continue until Christmas Eve.
Its rogue pilot is in a cat-and-mouse game with police and sent the unmanned small aircraft over the runway at 3pm, minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm.
Exclusive footage obtained by MailOnline shows the drone flying past Gatwick's north terminal and over the runway before it dives away and lands to the east of the airport after being chased by a police helicopter.
On the ground armed police carrying Heckler & Koch sniper rifles have been dotted along the runway ready to shoot down the drone - but have so far failed to end the most disruptive airport trespass in UK history.
Today 760 flights were grounded over fears a drone could take down a passenger jet if it was sucked into an engine or smashed through its fuselage with Gatwick's runway set to be closed until the manhunt ends.
Passengers have been warned the disruption will run into Friday and Saturday - the busiest days of the festive getaway - with more than 400,000 people booked in to fly this weekend.
And some people stranded in the past 24 hours have taken to social media to reveal they are struggling to get a new flight out before Christmas Eve.
Almost 24 hours into the crisis the police has approached the Ministry of Defence for help and they could send spotters as well as vehicles and helicopters to help search for the mystery saboteur.
Soldiers could also test the Army's new weapon - known as a 'Drone Dome' or 'kill-jammer' - which can 'soft kill' a drone by knocking out its communications or a 'hard kill' by shooting it down with a laser from up to two miles away.
The shutdown at Gatwick today has renewed calls for the use of anti-drone technology at British airports including frequency jammers and early warning systems now common near US runways.
A police helicopter and dozens of officers on the ground are currently scanning a five-mile zone around Gatwick to find and arrest the suspect, who faces up to five years in jail.
With pressure increasing to find the perpetrator, Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, the airport's policing commander, said: 'Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears. I'm absolutely convinced it's a deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick Airport'.
Detectives are investigating if the drone chaos is a stunt by a lone wolf pilot or part of a wider plot by activists who want to disrupt flights for environmental or political reasons - but police have initially ruled out a terror attack.
The Army may soon join the hunt and a MoD spokesman said: 'There are ongoing discussions with the police about any military capability that could be provided to assist with their operation'.
Inside the London airport's two terminals tens of thousands of people have been stranded and forced to sleep on floors as up to 760 flights face cancellation, including several meant to fly children to meet Santa in Lapland.
Many more have said their dream trips around the world to see family and friends for Christmas are now in ruins.
In the worst drone incursion at a UK airport in history, it emerged:
- Police continue manhunt for drone pilot who has been flying over the airport since 9pm on Thursday night;
- Gatwick has grounded up to 760 flights for safety reasons with more than 110,000 people stranded today. Disruption will continue into Friday and Saturday;
- Last night 10,000 people were stuck with 6,000 diverted elsewhere and 4,000 on planes that never took off;
- Drone is being flown by an expert pilot using a commercial drone who has flown it over Gatwick at least once an hour since 9pm;
- Police marksmen now dotted close to Gatwick's runway and perimeter fences and Army could now be sent in with a new weapon that neutralises a drone from up to two miles away;
Around 10,000 people were stranded at Gatwick last night because of the drone incursions with 110,000 more victims today.
Thousands including young children were to sleep on floors or chairs as all flight departures were grounded. Extra airport staff have been drafted in to hand out food and drink.
Gatwick's chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, confirmed a recent drone sighting and said disruption would continue for several days.
He told BBC News: 'There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption.
'We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.
'It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.
'Realistically if we do reopen today, what the airlines will seek to do is deal with the passengers who are on site and to prepare for an operation tomorrow morning where we repatriate passengers who are in the wrong place.
'It's realistically going to take several days to recover.'
He added: 'I'm absolutely certain this is a deliberate act. There is a drone on my airfield as we speak.'
Planes due to fly in to Gatwick were diverted to European airports including Amsterdam, Paris, Bordeaux and Shannon as well as the majority of UK airports, where some stranded passengers slept on their planes because of a lack of hotel rooms.
Ed Wilde claims to have filmed it flying over his plane last night as commercial drone pilots said only an expert using specialist and hugely expensive equipment could be behind the chaos.
Last night people, including children as young as three, were forced to sleep on Gatwick's terminal floors, seats or on grounded jets because of a lack of hotels.
Eddie Boyes, who was caught in the chaos, said today: 'We were offered a hotel only for that to be rescinded shortly afterwards. People sleeping on floor in south terminal, utter shambles'.
A mother said she has suffered an 'emotional disaster' after spending the night on a cold floor with her eight-year-old-daughter and three-year-old son.
Yulia Hristova, who was meant to fly to Istanbul via Kiev at 3am and has been at the airport since midnight, said: 'With two kids I'm in a difficult position, I'm so tired, I'm so upset, we've had no information.
'We were standing for hours, nobody's been on the desk. It was so cold. We were sleeping on the floor, me and my children. I lost my son during the night, and a policeman brought him back.
'I was meant to be reunited with my family, my kids were so excited they didn't sleep until 6am, they were waiting to get on the plane.
'It's been an emotional disaster.
'I'm so exhausted, I don't want to stress out but it's very worrying. What's going to happen to us in Ukraine? What if we run out of money? Are the airline going to put us in a hotel?
'I want to give up right now, it's making me so anxious.'
Mamosta Abdulla said he was on an Iraq-bound flight on Wednesday evening before getting stuck on the tarmac for four hours and will now miss his father's memorial service.
He said: 'We got here at 6pm and should have flown at 9.10pm, but we were stuck four hours on the plane with a crying baby, the child was disabled and everyone was sweating because it was so hot in there.
'They gave us hope by showing us the safety procedure and then five minutes later they say nobody is flying.
'We got given a £12 refreshment voucher each after a couple hours of waiting and that's it.
'We've had to sleep in a freezing place, on uncomfortable chairs. We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands! But here some drones have shut down the airport.'
A Gatwick spokesman said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.
He was unable to state how many of these passengers had already been affected but the first wave of flights is normally the busiest time of the day.
Around 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night after the runway was closed at 9.03pm.
Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport if their flight is cancelled.
Dozens of people were perched on seats with jackets and coats used as makeshift blankets after being stranded in the airport overnight.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said the Government was considering extending police powers to prevent drones causing airport disruption in the future.
'Earlier this year we changed the law to make it illegal to fly within a kilometre of an airport and I know that police are out and trying to bring the drone down as quickly as possible.
'This is an illegal act. We are also looking to extend police powers and early in the new year we'll be looking at our next steps on that.
'The other thing we're looking at is counter-drone technology. Technology in this area is obviously moving incredibly quickly, but we need to make sure we're able to stop such activity in future.'
Baroness Sugg said authorities were hoping to get Gatwick open as quickly as possible as people travel for the Christmas break.
She added: 'Our priority is to get that airport open as safely as possible so that people can fly off on their Christmas breaks, or people who are coming in to visit friends and family.
'The police are working to bring the drone down, and I am confident that they will do so. '
Social media has been flooded with hundreds of complaints as airlines struggle to deal with the backlog. As well as dealing with flights delayed going in and out of Gatwick, airlines will have to get diverted planes back to the airport, meaning more knock-on delays today.
Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after a drone was sighted near the airfield but the runway reopened at about 3am
But just 45 minutes later it was shut again after a drone was spotted again.
Passengers faced delays to their travels on Wednesday night as some flights were unable to leave the tarmac while others were diverted to alternative airports.
Some people reported being left stuck on planes for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on.
Gatwick advised anyone flying from the airport, or collecting someone, to check the status of their flight.
A spokeswoman added that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.
Lyndsey Clarke, from Southend on Sea, said she was stuck on a plane for more than four hours after it was re-routed to Stansted.
The 27-year-old said passengers were then having to get taxis back to Gatwick after they were finally allowed off the aircraft.
Luke McComiskie's plane ended up in Manchester, and he described chaotic scenes as people tried to find their way home after more than three hours stuck onboard.
The 20-year-old from Aldershot said: 'We got told there would be some arrangements with coaches for us when we get out the terminal... it was just chaos and they had only two coaches and taxis charging people £600 to get to Gatwick.'
Joe Bond's flight from Belfast was diverted to Birmingham, and he joked on Twitter: 'From the sound of the stewards we might be staying here forever.'
He added: 'Update. Got a free can of Coke and Pringles. Which has made the delay better.'
Flight tracking site Plane Finder said some flights had been put on a holding pattern over France.
It is understood two British Airways flights were diverted to Heathrow Airport.
Oana Damian tweeted that her flight had been diverted to London Heathrow but no-one could disembark as there were no customs and ground handling operations in place to deal with the plane.
Honor Ireland wrote: 'Landed at Stansted when we should be at @Gatwick-Airport due to a supposed drone sighting - car is at Gatwick, fantastic! £gatwickairport'
John Belo said: 'Plane should have departed an hour ago from @Gatwick-Airport - captain confirmed there are reports of a drone in the area ... still waiting.'
The drama overnight was played out on social media with people posting their stories on Instagram and Snapchat