Airport in London Forced to Suspend Flights After Drones Get Too Close

Air traffic control has to sometimes worry about birds getting too close to the air space occupied by airplanes transporting both business and pleasure travelers. Drones open a whole new worry for them. One of the busiest airports in the U.K. suspended or diverted all its flights after drones were seen over the airfield for the airport

Drones Too Close to London Airport

While there are existing laws regarding the proximity of drones to airports, maybe we are reaching a time when there should be some type of air traffic control for drones. Maybe they should need to check in with where they are headed and when, as well as identify who the responsible person or business is, just like airplanes do.

Around 9:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday there was a disruption about thirty miles south of London, England, at Gatwick Airport. A pair of drones were seen in the airspace over Britain’s second busiest airport, effectively shutting it down.

For six hours the runway remained closed and was then shut down again, not even an hour later, after “a further sighting of drones.” It was still closed Thursday evening. Police are searching for the operator of the drones, according to Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer.

This is enough of a problem that the military has even been called to action to assist the police, according to Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Police don’t believe these wayward drones are part of any terror attack, but they are asking for the public to help them identify the operator of the drones. They suspect the drones are of “industrial specification.”


For very obvious reasons, it’s illegal to fly a drone within 1 kilometer of an airport or airfield boundary. They are also not allowed to be flown above 120 meters where they are more likely to cause a disturbance with an aircraft.

This comes just before one of the most busiest travel seasons with the Christmas holiday. Around 110,000 passengers on 760 flights were initially due to pass through the airport on Thursday. Some overnight flights were diverted to Paris and Amsterdam.

“We anticipate disruption to continue through the day and into tomorrow. Any passengers due to fly today or tomorrow should not set off for Gatwick without checking flight information with their airline,” reported the airport in a news release on Thursday.

“We are extremely disappointed that what appears to be deliberate action is affecting journeys at this important time of year,” continued the release. “We are working tirelessly with our airlines to put plans in place to recover our operation once given the go-ahead that our runway can reopen.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Sky News tweeted that a Gatwick Airport spokesperson said that passengers shouldn’t come to the airport “for the foreseeable future, including tomorrow.”


Again, perhaps with the increase in drones being used in the business world, there should be a better system in place to prevent this from happening.

While efforts have begun to use drones for deliveries to help businesses, if business travel is shut down in the process, it’s much more harmful to business as a whole in the end run.

How do you propose this type of disruption should be curtailed in the future? How should they better control drones flying too close to airports and disrupting flights? Let us know in the comments below how you would solve this problem.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura hails from the Chicago area and has been a writer and editor covering news, entertainment, and technology for nearly 20 years and has been with Onlinetivity since its inception, editing and covering news. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring new devices and mobile apps.

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