Couple arrested in connection to ‘criminal use of drones’ over Gatwick Airport
A middle-aged man and woman are being questioned by police over their suspected role in the illegal use of drones over London’s Gatwick Airport, creating chaos for international travellers.
- Man and woman were arrested at a home about eight kilometres from the airport
- Their motive is still unknown, but police don’t believe it to be terror-related
- Air travel is still impacted by the disruption, with delays to continue in the coming days
The man, 47 and the woman, 54, were arrested at a home in Crawley, about eight kilometres from the airport, on Friday night (local time).
Police searched the house before taking the pair into custody.
Authorities have yet to confirm whether charges have been laid against the suspects and Sussex Police Superintendent James Collis said investigations into “the criminal use of drones” were continuing.
“Every line of enquiry will remain open to us until we are confident that we have mitigated further threats to the safety of passengers,” he said.
“Our investigations are still ongoing, and our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones, by deploying a range of tactics.”
Authorities have not said if they think the pair acted alone or as part of a larger group.
The motive for their “criminal” drone operation has not been established, but officials say there are no indications it is “terror-related”.
Police have yet to formally identify the suspects.
Flights have resumed at Gatwick Airport following a cautionary closure. (AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Despite the arrests, the military remained involved in the operation to return the airport to a state of normalcy.
Officials at the UK’s second-busiest airport were forced to ground planes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after two drones were spotted hovering over the airfield.
The drones would continually reappear, in what officials called a deliberate attempt to disrupt air travel.
Stranded passengers have been left with nothing to do but wait until officials reopen the runway. (AP: Tim Ireland)
Gatwick Airport was at a standstill during the busiest travel periods of the year, causing a ripple affect through the international air travel industry.
The airport was effectively shut down for 36 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, with police and military personnel stationed at Gatwick to locate the drone operators.
Passengers were stuck in the terminal, with many forced to sleep in the airport while they waited out the disruption.
Flights were suspended again on Friday, this time for a little more than an hour, following the sighting of another drone.
Delays, cancellations and diversions created chaos for passengers travelling ahead of the Christmas break.
The airport was plagued by long lines and flight delays Saturday, but there were no new drone sightings following the arrests on Friday night.
A Gatwick spokesman said Saturday that “things are going in the right direction” and should be back to normal by the end of the weekend after a horrendous few days that saw tens of thousands of travellers stranded or delayed.
The airport hoped to run 757 flights, serving just under 125,000 passengers, on Saturday.