The past few days have been chaotic for London’s second busiest airport. The Gatwick Airport had a series of delays due to drones flying about the airfield. The airport reopened last Friday after what can be described as 36 hours of traveler hell. Soon after getting back to operations Sussex police would make two arrests related to the incident. There is no word yet on the nature of these arrests and the suspects.
This was the latest incident that saw delays on this scale. The last time something like this happened to the busy airport was in 2010. A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano derailed operations due to poor visibility. Still, this 2018 incident is just as unprecedented, to say the least.
A Christmas Time Fiasco
Airports are busy places, but the holiday season intensifies that. Operations become more stressful with exponentially more people coming in to go on vacations. The drones that would show up around the airfields delayed flights as they can cause accidents.
Passengers who came in early had to suffer delayed and canceled flights due to the drones. The incident was deemed “unprecedented” so many flyers will not get compensation for their inconvenience. It was a frustrating time for everyone including the police who were sent in to deal with the issue. Anytime the airport would get ready to reopen; the drone would fly over the airspace to prolong the ordeal.
Many passengers chose to leave the airport during all of this. But, for some like Sarah Garghan-Watson, they spent the night in Gatwick despite already being there since 8 am on Thursday. In the spirit of the holidays, some Airport staff handed out chocolates and other trinkets to disgruntled flyers. Airlines may not be obliged to pay for the inconvenience this all caused. However, those who chose to no longer fly are due for refunds.
As of this writing, there are still no clear motives as to why this happened. The drone fiasco is one of the biggest bumbles in airport security in recent history. Police are open minded to what might have caused this. But, according to a representative, there are no links to this being a terrorist attack.
Security and Preventive Measures
It seems pretty silly that drones hovering over an airfield can cause such delays.
However, these incident have been increasing at a fast rate in recent years. Between 2015 and 2017 drone incidents have tripled in Britain. In the past year alone 92 incidents have been recorded.
For this particular incident alone the airport used unnamed military-grade technology to help take down the obtrusive drones. In fact, police snipers were called to action for this severe issue. Drone collisions are very dangerous. In fact, having drones fly within a kilometer of a British airfield can be punished with five years of jail time.
The drone was said to circle the airfields and flash its lights. The defense ministry would not disclose the kind of technology used to subdue the problem device. However, using witness reports experts were able to derive the kind of drone that it was. These experts are saying that the authorities would have needed thermal imaging technology to detect such an unmanned vehicle.
Another way to deal with it is to have devices that would jam signals between a drone, and its users. They can also distort the GPS signals that drones use to navigate. The biggest concern coming from this incident is how much trouble drones can cause. Although they look harmless, if a plane hit a drone, severe amounts of damage would be done to the body of the plane.
Transport Minister Chris Grayling said the following on the matter; “This kind of incident is unprecedented anywhere in the world,” To an extent that is true. The incident at Gatwick can serve as an important example as to why airports all over the world should update their security measures.
Another note is that there is no telling of the economic consequences of something like this. Happening during the Christmas season, there are bound to be many missed reservations because of this. Technology is growing at a rapid rate that people and their institutions may be having a hard time to adjust. With incidents like this, it vital to see where they can improve their approach.