Holiday travel can be hectic. You may know that very well. There are many things that can cause anything from a minor inconvenience to downright frustration and much of it is out of your hands. Travelers in the UK certainly got a taste of this when someone began flying drones over Gatwick Airport bring air traffic there to a standstill. This situation underscores just how vulnerable we are even with modern technology.

Drones can be great

We have a drone at Nicely Done Sites. They are great for getting aerial photography at much less of a cost then renting an airplane or helicopter. Drones are also being used to save lives since they can reach out of the way areas or cut off due to a disaster with critical supplies. They are also being used to deliver packages or even food. Basically drones can do a lot of good.

The Incident at Gatwick

Many passengers waiting at Gatwick Airport south of London probably were not thinking about the potential of what a drone can do as flight after flight was delayed and later cancelled because someone began flying multiple drones over the airport. With 760 flights leaving on December 20 and 110,000 passengers involved this was a major disruption. 11,000 passengers were stranded in the terminal overnight and because this was considered to be an extraordinary evert airlines were not obligated to make any sort of financial compensation to their passengers. Flights into Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, were diverted to other UK airports like Birmingham or London-Stansted.

The first drone appeared on the Thursday before Christmas. Police were called and attempted to locate the operator but they were not able to pick up the radio controller’s signal despite driving around the perimeter and using a helicopter. They believe that the person would move when the police got close. The drone made numerous appearances suggesting that there was a person nearby changing the batteries or there were multiple drones involved.

Since no signal could be tracked no information could be gleaned regarding the operator. Even a small amount of information could lead them to the culprit but nothing could be found, suggesting the operator was very technological savvy. After a brief repoening on early December 20 the drone reappeared. Gatwick opened for normal operations on December 21 after 155 flights were cancelled. Unfortunately another sighting closed the airport later that evening that shut down the airport for 90 minutes before “military measures” were put in place to safely reopen it. 11 flights were forced to be diverted during the closing. Just what could those military measures be? Find out.

More Drone Incidents Worldwide

The Sussex Police were at a loss and called in the British Army to help. Obviously the perpetrator was breaking the law. Like in the US drones are not allowed near airports, in the UK they are not allowed to be within one kilometer of an airport (compared to 8 kilometers in the US). The number of incidents in the UK involving airplanes and drones has been escalating just like with many other countries over the globe.

How to deal with Rogue Drones

There are methods in place to stop drones from flying in restricted airspace. They can be picked up on radar or radio frequency sensors and it can be jammed which returns the drone to its default mode and sending it back to where it originally came. This technology has been in use for several years and was used to counter the threats from drones at the 2012 London Olympic games so it is no stranger to the UK.

China uses a more extreme method to deal with rogue drones, they simply shoot them down with guns. Police in the UK refuse to do this due to the fear of stray bullets. A British company developed a system called the SkyWall 100 which is a bazooka that fires a net at the drone and is used by security forces all over the world. Another option is using another drone to intercept a rogue drone using a net to capture it. This system has been used at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic games as well as by the Tokyo Police.

Lasers may be the next option. Boeing is working on a system to use a high-energy beam capable of bringing down a drone from several miles away. It uses an infrared camera so it can work in low visibility situations. China has also been working on a project called the Silent Killer, which it unveiled at a weapons exhibition in Kazakhstan earlier this year.

In what may be the oddest method of bringing a drone down is used by the Netherlands. Dutch police have trained eagles to latch onto drones with their talons to disable them. They are believed to be the only nation involved in such a program.

No matter what people will abuse anything and drones are no different. While most people use their drones responsibly it only takes one person. Pretty soon though those people will have their drones captured. That is little solace for the thousands of people stranded at Gatwick and it just underscores how vulnerable our modern world is. The passengers stranded at Gatwick or trying to get to Gatwick were certainly not very happy, especially with the holiday season upon us. Was this just a prankster or did it have more malicious intent? Hopefully we will find out.

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