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Drones paralyse British airport, grounding Christmas travellers


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Drones paralyse British airport, grounding Christmas travellers

By Sarah Young and Kate Holton

 

2018-12-20T211335Z_1_LYNXNPEEBJ1VL_RTROPTP_4_BRITAIN-DRONES-GATWICK.JPG

Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport after drones flying illegally over the airfield forced the closure of the airport, in Gatwick, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

 

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain sent troops to its second-biggest airport after an unprecedented attempt to cripple Christmas travel with large drones forced all flights to be cancelled on Thursday.

 

As thousands of passengers waited at Gatwick Airport, south of London, police hunted unsuccessfully for the operators of the large drones which reappeared near the airfield every time the airport tried to reopen the runway.

 

Police said there was no indication of a terrorism motive behind the devices, which first appeared on Wednesday night.

 

"We will be deploying the armed forces," Defence Minister Gavin Williamson told reporters. "We are there to assist and do everything we can."

 

Europe's air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said the airport would remain closed until 0600 GMT on Friday.

 

Drones were seen as recently as the last hour, a Gatwick spokesman said at about 2200 GMT on Thursday, more than 24 hours after their first sighting.

 

The airport said flights would remain shut down for the rest of the evening on a day when 115,000 people were scheduled to pass through, many en route to seasonal breaks.

 

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman condemned the standoff as "irresponsible and completely unacceptable".

 

Passenger Ani Kochiashvili had been bound for Georgia but spent six hours overnight sitting on a plane with her children.

 

"I'm very annoyed because I'm with two kids, a three-month-old and three-year-old," she told Reuters by phone among thousands camped in the terminal.

 

"They require a lot of space and food and changing and all that, and the airport is crazy busy so it's challenging."

 

Flights were halted at 2103 GMT on Wednesday after two drones were spotted near the airfield, triggering the biggest disruption at Gatwick since a volcanic ash cloud in 2010.

 

Police said more than 20 units were hunting the operators near Gatwick airport, 50 km (30 miles) south of London.

 

Transport minister Chris Grayling said it was clearly a deliberate act. "This is a commercial-sized drone," he said. "Every time Gatwick tries to re-open the runway, the drones reappear."

 

Grayling temporarily lifted night-flying restrictions at other airports to ease congestion caused by diverted aircraft, Sky News reported.

 

"COMPLETE MAYHEM"

With a surge in public enthusiasm for drones, there has been an increase in near-collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets in recent years.

 

The number of near misses between private drones and aircraft in Britain more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board regulator.

 

Richard Parker, head of air traffic management technology firm Altitude Angel, said this was the first time a major airport had been hit by such a sustained and deliberate incursion into its airspace.

 

"It's sophisticated, not from a technology side, but it's organised. People have charged lots of batteries, and are deliberately trying to avoid being caught, probably by driving around to different locations," he told Reuters.

 

"It really is unprecedented."

 

Gatwick's Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe described one of the drones as a heavy industrial model.

 

"The police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets," he told BBC radio.

 

Drone expert Peter Lee of Portsmouth University said he and others had been anticipating disruption.

 

"One of my concerns about today is that it may well encourage copy-cat incidents because you can achieve a high amount of disruption for a very, very low cost," he said.

 

It is illegal to fly drones within 1 km (0.6 mile) of a British airport boundary, punishable by five years in prison.

 

Even after Gatwick re-opens, the backlog and disruption are expected to last for days.

 

Gatwick said it was working with its airlines, the biggest of which also include British Airways <ICAG.L> and Norwegian <NWC.OL>, on recovery plans once the runway re-opens.

 

Safety was its "foremost priority", it said.

 

Gatwick, which competes with Europe's busiest airport Heathrow, west of London, had previously said Sunday would be its busiest day of the festive period.

 

Passengers took to Twitter to share their stories.

 

One waiting at the airport said: "At Gatwick Airport, drone chaos, surprisingly good natured, but complete mayhem."

 

(Reporting by Sarah Young in London and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Alison Williams and James Dalgleish)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2018-12-21
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Scary that something so relatively low-tech can shutdown an international airport. Understandable though that nobody would take the risk of launching a commercial aircraft with the risk there.

 

Seems that they are also monitoring the airport's air traffic control frequencies and are ready as they try to open the runways. IMO, this is not kids playing around, but has the potential for kids to do exactly that in copycat cases if those responsible are not caught and heavily punished.

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2 hours ago, webfact said:

Police said there was no indication of a terrorism motive behind the devices, which first appeared on Wednesday night.

 

So the motive is mischief?

 

 

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no weapons needed really...

 

use military equipment, yes! 

 

 -  helicopters an outrun/overhaul the devices, and simply bring them down via the downwash from their blades!

 

and, even their old Vulcan era technology can isolate and overpower/disrupt whatever detected frequency(s) the drones operate with...

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Pathetic to hear such morons exist in the developed world. Normally such moronic behaviour is attributed to the natives in the third world.

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18 minutes ago, ravip said:

Pathetic to hear such morons exist in the developed world. Normally such moronic behaviour is attributed to the natives in the third world.

Perhaps, but what I've noticed is that these "third world natives" are invading EU countries and UK.

 

You reap what you sow.....

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4 minutes ago, evadgib said:

 

 

Who in their right mind is looking forward to a world in which we look up to a sky darkened by a myriad whirling buzzing machines?

 

A world in which "vehicles" colonise and monopolise the skies above us as they have the ground on which which we stand?

 

Nothing "sensationalist" about it.......that's the beardy t***s  wet dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, tifino said:

no weapons needed really...

 

use military equipment, yes! 

 

 -  helicopters an outrun/overhaul the devices, and simply bring them down via the downwash from their blades!

 

and, even their old Vulcan era technology can isolate and overpower/disrupt whatever detected frequency(s) the drones operate with...

Helicopters and drone catching drones would do the trick.

 

Jamming the frequencies could work, if the drone is controlled actively. But does not work, if the drone is executing predetermined plan.

 

In that case jamming GPS signal could help, but who would want to do that at the airport environment?

 

Now imagine a drone or 10 drones with 1kg titanium ball inside it. Flying low and not easily detected, rising upwards and aiming to the engine(s) of a plane which is taking off.. 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, bluesofa said:

If the army are getting involved, I assumed that shooting them out of the sky would work, as well as making the drone owners realise their investment would be up in smoke.

 

The investment is in a ballpark of 1000 pounds. The fines and charges from an activity which closes a major airport is probably millions. 

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The French and Dutch have trained Golden Eagles to take it drones at places where they shouldn't be like Airports but that may be for smaller type drones not the industrial ones used in this lunacy .. 

Personally there is more to it .. A lot of planning has gone into this and ultimately would not surprise if this is terrorism at work as the financial impact of it will be massive .. And violent acts of terrorism are much harder to pull off at places like Airports , Rail stations , etc now but ****Ing up an Airport's ability to function has far reaching effects that will be very costly to the authorities .. 

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2 hours ago, tifino said:

no weapons needed really...

 

use military equipment, yes! 

 

 -  helicopters an outrun/overhaul the devices, and simply bring them down via the downwash from their blades!

 

and, even their old Vulcan era technology can isolate and overpower/disrupt whatever detected frequency(s) the drones operate with...

https://goo.gl/images/74FLeJ

 

Good old "Vulcan"!

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1 hour ago, bluesofa said:

If the army are getting involved, I assumed that shooting them out of the sky would work, as well as making the drone owners realise their investment would be up in smoke.

 

How about party poppers? Well a larger version fired from a very pistol.

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Quote

 

Gatwick's runway has reopened after drones caused the airport to shut down for more than a day.

The airport said the runway was "currently available" and 765 flights were scheduled for departure and arrival.

Two Easyjet and two BA flights took off on Friday morning and one China Eastern Airlines flight from Shanghai landed

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-46643173

 

I see they gave priority to the China flight, No doubt it's belly full of Chinese made drones. 

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3 hours ago, Vacuum said:

Perhaps, but what I've noticed is that these "third world natives" are invading EU countries and UK.

 

You reap what you sow.....

Absolutely true!

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2 hours ago, Pedrogaz said:

Clearly this is the work of the Kremlin.....Putin just wants to spoil the Christmas holidays for thousands of well off Brits.

I suspect it is Russian orchestrated.  Certainly well constructed exercise and highlights just vulnerable airports can be.

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3 hours ago, from the home of CC said:

I'm sure terrorist groups have taken note of the easy way to cripple the transportation system of a country, though I believe if this happened stateside the reluctance to shoot down the drones would be less.

Thanks, I was concerned that this thread lacked a "In America............."post

Thanks for saving the day , threads arent complete unless there is a comparison to America

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16 minutes ago, JulesMad said:

They are not even capable of jamming the frequencies?!? Bunch of amateurs :cheesy:

If, as was likely, the drones were operating on a preprogrammed flight then there would be no frequencies to jam!

 

 

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