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Drones over Gatwick leave thousands delayed

Drone sightings over one of the UK’s busiest airports have caused mass disruption

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Thousands of passengers are experiencing delays and disruption at Gatwick after drones were seen flying over its runways.

Drone sightings have meant some flights have not been able to take off from Gatwick, with others redirected entirely. Incoming planes not deemed safe to arrive at Gatwick were diverted elsewhere, with some landing as far afield as Paris and Amsterdam. The disruption is thought to have affected 10,000 passengers.

First drone sightings happened at 9pm on Thursday, when onlookers saw two drones flying over Gatwick’s airfield. A brief reopening at 3am was quickly shut down after more drone sightings were reported.

Meanwhile, a member of staff informed the BBC that a pair of drones had been spotted flying “over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from,” causing “very significant disruption”.

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An investigation to find the drone operator has been launched by police, with a helicopter seen circling overhead on Thursday morning. Police have been told not to shoot the drones down owing to significant risk of stray bullets.

As for the operator, they’ll face legal trouble. It is illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary – and pretty near indefensible to hover one directly over a runway.

Passengers, meanwhile, are disgruntled, with many facing waits of over six hours. One flyer reported that a flight to Kiev, scheduled to land at 9.45pm last night, landed at Birmingham airport instead. Passengers remained on the plane until the early hours of the morning, with no updates from cabin crew.

Others have described scenes at Gatwick as an “utter shambles”. 


If you are due to travel, Gatwick has advised that you check the status of your flight. Meanwhile, anyone who needs to brush up on the rules and regulations surrounding drone operation can do so with our full explainer here.

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