drone drama shows how even unarmed UAVs can cause economic chaos and risk to life

By Anna Jackman

Published 21 December 2018

One of the amazing things about the recent drone incident at London Gatwick is that the appearance of two unmanned aerial vehicles flying into operational runway space prompted the closure of Britain’s second-busiest for more than a day. This is by no the first incident of drones causing problems at airports, but the event at Gatwick is unusual in both the length of its duration and the presence and repeated use of multiple drones. The growing availability and affordability of consumer drones that risks to airports, and other secure spaces will rise – and the counter-measures currently deployed against them leave room for improvement and need to be more widely adopted.

One of the amazing things about the recent drone incident at London Gatwick is that the appearance of two unmanned aerial vehicles flying into operational runway space prompted the closure of Britain’s second-busiest airport for more than a day. With further sightings of drones, Gatwick only reopened to limited service after a 36-hour interruption, and those responsible for operating the drone remain at large.

With more than 110,000 passengers on 760 flights due to depart Gatwick on just one of the affected days, these drone incursions have left a trail of disruption behind them.

This is by no means the first incident of drones causing problems at airports – there have been similar incidents in Canada, Dubai, Poland and China. But the event at Gatwick is unusual in both the length of its duration and the presence and repeated use of multiple drones.

The growing availability and affordability of consumer drones means that risks to airports, and other secure spaces will rise – and the counter-measures currently deployed against them leave room for improvement and need to be more widely adopted.

Unclear motives
A study by the Remote Control Project estimates that around 200,000 drones are being sold for civilian use around the world every month. Readily available from a range of online and high-street outlets, drones are becoming more commonplace and more affordable for the hobbyist.

As they move from a niche product to a more mainstream device, they have also caught the eye of growing number of hostile groups – and state militaries as well as terrorists and other non-state actors are increasingly deploying drones on the battlefield.



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