If the rogue drones flying around Gatwick Airport yesterday were merely out for fun, they chose a particularly bad time to break the rules. During the holiday travel rush, flights were suspended, rerouted and delayed until 3 am Thursday local time at Gatwick Airport in England, due to reported sightings of drones within the restricted zone of the airport.
The news was picked up by several news sources, according to Reuters, which reported that sightings of two drones flying over airways at the UK’s second-busiest airport grounded all flights and turned away landings for hours beginning late Wednesday evening local time.
Planes were unable to depart, and a number of flights scheduled to land were diverted to other airports, Gatwick said in a statement.
Basic flight rules prohibit drones from flying around airports. Reported sightings in the U.S. were one factor leading to the repeal of Section 336 in the U.S., eliminating some special considerations for recreational drones and making all drones subject to remote ID and registration requirements.
Passengers complained on Twitter that their flights had landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. Other flights were sent to France and the Netherlands.
Flights eventually resumed at around 3:00 a.m. local time on Thursday, according to the Guardian, but the airport wrote on Twitter nearly two hours later that further sightings of the drones had forced them to again close the runway.
“We will update when we have suitable reassurance that it is appropriate to re-open the runway,” the official Gatwick Airport LGW account wrote. “…We apologize to any affected passengers for this inconvenience but the safety of our passengers and all staff is our foremost priority.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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