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Thursday, 20 December 2018

Rogue drone pilot taunts police: Army join snipers in cat and mouse game as Gatwick drone is spotted over runway AGAIN just minutes before it was due to re-open - with chaos set to last until Christmas Eve

  • 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: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk and tips@mailonline.com
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.  

Police marksmen armed with Heckler & Koch HK417 sniper rifles have been stationed on the perimeter of Gatwick and along its runway (pictured) as they prepare to shoot down a drone that have shut down the airport

Police marksmen armed with Heckler & Koch HK417 sniper rifles have been stationed on the perimeter of Gatwick and along its runway (pictured) as they prepare to shoot down a drone that have shut down the airport
The drone has buzzed across Gatwick's runway more than ten times since 9pm last night but police claim every time they get close to it it 'disappears'
The drone has buzzed across Gatwick's runway more than ten times since 9pm last night but police claim every time they get close to it it 'disappears'
This is the scene at Gatwick today where tens of thousands face doubts they will get away for Christmas as a result of the drone chaos
This is the scene at Gatwick today where tens of thousands face doubts they will get away for Christmas as a result of the drone chaos
Gatwick is 'full to capacity' with no flights coming in or out on one of the busiest days of the year at UK airports with 110,000 expected there today alone
Gatwick is 'full to capacity' with no flights coming in or out on one of the busiest days of the year at UK airports with 110,000 expected there today alone
A group of youngsters watch something on their phones as one young man gets some sleep as up to 760 flights were suspended today
A group of youngsters watch something on their phones as one young man gets some sleep as up to 760 flights were suspended today
One woman gets some sleep on the Gatwick floor using her suitcase a makeshift pillow today after the suspension of all flights in and out
Parent Ani Kochiashvili photographs her baby and a toddler as they get some sleep on the chairs in GatwickPassengers on a Norwegian Air flight diverted to Paris Orly get from fresh air as they are stranded on the Tarmac
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.   

Timeline: How dangerous drone pilot managed to shut down Gatwick

Police are hunting for the expert drone pilot who has grounded hundreds of planes coming in and out of Gatwick by flying a drone at least ten time 
Here is how the chaos has unfolded:
9pm, December 19: Drone is first spotted by airport staff hovering near the runway causing flights to be grounded or diverted.
9.15pm: It appears again leading Gatwick bosses to believe it is a deliberate act.
9.30pm - midnight: The drone is seen at least five more times in that period
3.01am, December 20: Airport re-opens its runway after the all clear is given
3.45am: Drone is seen again and flights are again grounded
7am: Small unmanned aircraft appears again
9am: Last sighting of the drone as police start hunting perimeter of the airport 
Midday: Police are unable find the drone pilot despite it appearing again at lunchtime with Gatwick saying all flights are grounded until at least 4pm
2pm: Airport admits it has 'no idea' when it will re-open as police struggle to find the pilot 
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.' Police watchers are on the roof of the Gatwick police station but are struggling to find the person causing chaos with a drone
Police watchers are on the roof of the Gatwick police station but are struggling to find the person causing chaos with a drone
Christmas may be cancelled for some of the poor passengers whose trips abroad to see friends and family are now in tatters
Christmas may be cancelled for some of the poor passengers whose trips abroad to see friends and family are now in tatters
The tens of thousands stuck in Gatwick's two terminals have been forced to sit and wait as police tried and failed to find the pilot
The tens of thousands stuck in Gatwick's two terminals have been forced to sit and wait as police tried and failed to find the pilot
A young woman has her head in her hands as she and 100,000 others face disruption because of the drone chaos
A young woman has her head in her hands as she and 100,000 others face disruption because of the drone chaos
This is the moment police boarded a flight at Stansted Airport after irate passengers flying home from Cape Verde were diverted  away from Gatwick
This is the moment police boarded a flight at Stansted Airport after irate passengers flying home from Cape Verde were diverted  away from Gatwick
Ground vehicles are shown here scouring the perimeter of the airport looking for its rogue pilot today
Ground vehicles are shown here scouring the perimeter of the airport looking for its rogue pilot today
There have been several potential sightings of the drone - but police claim that every time they get close it disappears
There have been several potential sightings of the drone - but police claim that every time they get close it disappears
Gatwick Airport confirmed they suspended flight operations after at least one drone was seen in the area surrounding the aerodrome. They said it was necessary to take this action for safety reasons 
Eddie Boyes says an offer of a hotel was later rescinded as chaos at Gatwick took over overnight because of cancellations
Eddie Boyes says an offer of a hotel was later rescinded as chaos at Gatwick took over overnight because of cancellations
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. 

Is it time for Britain to get anti-drone technology? Gatwick mayhem will renew calls for UK airports to have US defence system that downs unmanned aircraft with menacing radio waves

Calls for tougher anti-drone detection systems at UK airports that can spot devices up to five miles away within three seconds will be renewed today, following the suspension of flights at Gatwick Airport.
US airports use jammers to block the frequencies used to control drones, making them stop working if they are anywhere near a commercial or military runway. 
A drone flies in the air, with a British Airways aircraft pictured to the rear in February 2017


A drone flies in the air, with a British Airways aircraft pictured to the rear in February 2017
They also have 'early warning' systems to tell air traffic control if a drone is approaching - but these are not in place at UK airports.
According to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), there were 117 near misses between manned aircraft and drones up until November this year, compared to 93 for the whole of 2017 - a rise of 58 per cent.
Experts believe a large drone could take down a passenger jet because it could shred an engine if it was sucked in or destroy its windscreen or windows, causing a sudden drop in cabin pressure.
Strong sales of small consumer drones – especially in the run up to Christmas each year - have led to repeated warnings about a possible threat to scheduled flights, which have become a reality just five days before December 25.
The Civil Aviation Authority has estimated that 1.5million drones were bought in Britain last Christmas, with 63 per cent of these purchased as a gift.
More expensive commercial drones can be flown from up to five miles away or even remotely using GPS programming.
Earlier this year, new laws came into force which ban all drones from flying above 400ft and within 1km (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries. Drone users who flout the restrictions could face an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both. One passenger flying from Cape Verde to Gatwick became so irate about being diverted to Stansted last night he allegedly opened the door while a fellow traveller then claimed he was a terrorist so he could get off, leading to police being sent on board.  
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. 
Gatwick has said that its terminals are now full and urged anyone with a flight booked to check with their airlines before travelling there
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said the Government was considering extending police powers to prevent drones causing airport disruption in the future.

Were drones built by someone who planned to disrupt? Top expert says specialist equipment would have been needed

The drone used over London Gatwick Airport were potentially built by someone who planned to cause disruption, a top expert said today.
Samuel Luff, who has been flying drones for five years, said he believes the operator could have been manning the drone from up to five miles away.
Mr Luff, who runs Apollo Drone Services in Redhill, Surrey, also pointed out that it was raining at the time the drone was first sighted - giving further evidence that the device is specialised enough to work in wet conditions.
By SAMUEL LUFF, Apollo Drone Services
As a licensed and insured drone operator and a drone pilot for close to five years, I am actually amazed that it is only now in 2018 that we are seeing a serious threat at Gatwick Airport. 
I have had many conversations with my clients over the years about just how destructive the technology could be in the wrong hands, and in my opinion this is what we are seeing this morning. 
From the video that I have watched it is clear to me that the drones we are seeing are not of standard specification and have potentially been built for the purpose to disrupt. 
Here's the thing - the largest seller of drones, DJI, all have built in systems that prevent the operator from flying close to airports, to stop things like this happening. 
Someone here has not only got close to the airport but has been seen over the runway itself. 
This is not someone making a foolish mistake, this is someone who has planned this and built or modified a drone that can get this close to a runway. 
It is also worth pointing out that at 9pm (the approximate time they were seen) it was raining. 
Again, this points to something that is much more specialist, and Gatwick Airport has stated that 'one of the drones is a heavy, industrial type'.
It is entirely possible these people were operating the drone from up to five miles away which will make it very hard to track them down. Drones are too small to be picked up by a radar as well so they can go relatively unnoticed.
What I would like to see here is the Civil Aviation Authority and the police make it very clear to people that breaking drone rules will have serious consequences. 
There are thousands of videos online of people flying drones over crowds of people and through city centres. Very rarely do these people get prosecuted and it leads to things like this which damages our industry. 
I have seen instances where unlicensed pilots know full well they are breaking the rules but do so anyway because they know that the police simply do not have the time to deal with them.
Drones are used for good all across the UK by sensible, qualified operators and it's moments like this that further add to the public's perception that all drones are bad. 
Until someone is made an example of then I fully understand their concerns.
Visit Mr Luff's Twitter page here - or view the Apollo Drone Services website
She told BBC News: 'I think it's important to be clear this is a crime, this drone is being flown illegally.
'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
The drama overnight was played out on social media with people posting their stories on Instagram and Snapchat



1 comment:

  1. '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.'

    too fkn funny but yet ... nanny state

    ReplyDelete