The Gatwick drone

Whatever happened to the Gatwick drone? Remember shortly before Christmas the holiday plans of tens of thousands of people were disrupted by an alleged drone sighting at the airport.

I had largely forgotten about the story. Let’s face it, Christmas seems such a long time ago now doesn’t it, but it held the headlines for a couple of days on the trot, then the media seemed to lose interest.

A quick recap

So just to refresh our memories, this ‘drone’ that kept appearing in Gatwick airspace was described as being a commercial grade drone, rather than a domestic drone an amateur enthusiast would use. That seemed strange to me.

It also appeared to be quite odd that a helicopter from the National Police Air Service (NPAS) was not immediately airborne to track the drone back to its operators using its infra-red camera equipme)nt. (This is used so successfully in car chases and tracking people down through their heat signatures.

Only Police on the ground appeared to be in use, to search the airport perimeter. These personnel were subsequently augmented by members of the armed forces, though we were never told from which unit.

The story took a further twist, when the Police were quoted as saying there may never have been a drone involved at all.

If you’re going to spend the money required to buy a commercial grade drone, why would you risk losing it and facing a prosecution in such a reckless manner?

The situation became even more curious when a similar event occurred at Heathrow airport. However, only one runway was closed there. That again, did not make sense. If the airspace of the airport had been compromised for departures, then surely arrivals would be similarly affected? Using Google Maps, we can see the two runways at Heathrow are approximately 1,400 metres apart. It wouldn’t take long for a drone to fly that distance, so keeping in mind the amount of air traffic in and out of the airport, wouldn’t it have been prudent to close both runways?

The St Athan UFO filmed by NPAS

Speculation

To comment further on events would be entering into speculation, with only the very limited ‘facts’ about the drone incident available via the media.

As per the St Athan video, some speculated that a UFO had been detected forcing the airspace to be closed. Others blamed the Russians for the incursion or an other group working against the national interests of the United Kingdom.

Conclusion

The only thing we can conclude from what we have been told is there are so many unanswered questions relating to these incidents.

We know that travel disruption occurred for many thousands of people. We know many flights were disrupted. But that is about it.

Has there been a full post-event debrief? What is being done to prevent a similar event happening again? What reparations will be made to the couple who were arrested, splashed across the media and released without any charges being made against them?

That is of course before we even start to consider how a single drone could compromise our airspace.

All very unsatisfactory to say the least. Why not ask your MP some questions? I’m sure they would welcome a different subject from Brexit in their correspondence.

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