Drones Shut Down London Gatwick Airport, Stranding 10,000 Passengers

December 20, 2018, 12:49 PM UTC

A pair of drones has caused chaos at London Gatwick Airport after hovering ominously over the security fence late Wednesday night.

British police shut down the airport shortly afterward and went in search of the offending drone operators, who have not yet been found.

The attack stranded 10,000 passengers at the airport and forced airlines to divert inbound flights to other airports in northwest Europe. Some of those passengers had to sleep onboard after landing while airport authorities scrambled to keep up. Some 110,000 passengers were scheduled to use the airport today, according to the BBC’s live coverage.

British law prohibits drones from flying with one kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) of an airport, but incidents are common, with over 100 reported this year so far. Penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.

British aviation minister Liz Sugg said it was “absolutely not acceptable that passengers face such disruption ahead of Christmas”. Last year she wrote in Gizmodo about the new law for preventing such incidents.

Last week a drone crashed into a passenger aircraft in Mexico without injuring anyone, but researchers have shown that drones can cause more structural damage than similar-sized birds.