Gatwick drones: Police communication was a 'mess-up', say ministers

Police are still hunting for the drones which shut down Gatwick Airport

Ministers will discuss the Gatwick Airport drone drama in a Christmas Eve conference call as detectives examine a damaged drone in a bid to catch the culprits.

Detectives are examining a damaged drone which was found close at Gatwick Airport after two people held over the disruption were released without charge.

First published December 22, 11:25 a.m. PT Update, 11:46 a.m.: Adds mention of tweets by Sussex police and statement from Gatwick CEO concerning deliberate nature of incident.

Local police have released a man, 47, and a woman, 54, who were arrested over the recent drone attack that saw a United Kingdom airport suspend flights multiple times over three days.

"As part of our ongoing investigations into the criminal use of drones which has severely disrupted flights in and out of Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police made two arrests", Superintendent James Collis of the Sussex Police said in a statement on Saturday.

We can't say for sure what the motivation has been to perform these crimes, whether it was simply a mistake or an active protest against the airport's expansion, but we are sure it will be revealed in time.

A damaged drone had been recovered a close to the perimeter of the airport, he said, and it was being forensically examined, for example for clues about whether it was controlled remotely from afar or by somebody in the vicinity.

Suggestions that there may never have been any drones at Gatwick were down to "poor communications", police have said. I was surprised to see it was still there when I got up this morning because he usually works on Saturdays.

"Our inquiry continues at a pace to locate those responsible for the drone incursions, and we continue to actively follow lines of investigation".

The dangers posed by drones include the possibility of a device smashing into a passenger plane or being sucked into an engine where its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

Pictures of the Crawley couple were splashed across Sunday's newspapers, with headlines including "Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?". Everyone is phoning me up and saying, "It can't be him".

The Government changed the law this year to make it illegal to fly drones within 1,000 meters of an airport or above 400 feet.

It is a criminal offense in the United Kingdom to endanger the safety of an aircraft - a charge that would carry up to a five-year prison sentence if convicted, according to the BBC.

Gatwick, around 30 miles (50 kilometres) south of London, is Europe's eighth-busiest airport.

There are 757 flights scheduled for Saturday, carrying more than 124,000 passengers, an airport spokesman said.

"We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice".

Labour has demanded an independent inquiry into the turmoil at Gatwick.

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