UK police admit some drone sightings during Gatwick closure crisis may have been of their own surveillance drones

Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesPassengers wait in the South Terminal building at London Gatwick Airport on Friday, December 21, after the runway shut over drone activity.

  • Some drone sightings during the closure of Gatwick Airport before Christmas may have been of police drones, senior police officer says.
  • Speaking on Saturday, Giles York, the Chief Constable of Sussex Police said that he could not rule out the possibility that some sightings of drones reported during the incident were of drones that police had flown over the airport for surveillance purposes.
  • York said that there had been 115 reports of drone sightings during the incident, of which 92 had been confirmed as legitimate.

It is possible that some of the drone sightings that forced Gatwick Airport to close for nearly two days in the week before Christmas were of police drones which were themselves hunting the malicious drones which shut the airport, a senior police officer has said.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Giles York, the Chief Constable of Sussex Police said that he could not rule out the possibility that some sightings of drones reported during the incident were of drones that Sussex Police had flown over the airport for surveillance purposes.

“We will have launched our own Sussex police drones at the time, with a view to investigate, engage and survey the area. So there could be some level of confusion there as well,” York said after being questioned about a previous report that there may have been no drone at all.


Read more: UK police bizarrely saying Gatwick shutdown might not have been drones reportedly a failure to communicate

Last week Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said there was “always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place,” because police relied on human witnesses to the sighting.

That statement has now been dismissed by both the government and Sussex Police.

York said that there had been 115 reports of drone sightings during the incident, of which 92 had been confirmed as legitimate.

“I’m absolutely certain that there was a drone flying throughout the period that the airport was closed,” he said.

“I myself spoke to an eyewitness yesterday who was on the roof of the airport with four other people seeing it. What they saw was corroborated by two police officers near the runway. They saw the same thing, doing the same description at the same time.”

York added that two drones found near the airport in recent days have now been ruled out of the investigation.

More than 120,000 passengers had their flights disrupted in some way when the airport closed down last week. About 1,000 aircraft were either canceled or diverted, according to the BBC.

The British army, who was deployed to Gatwick to respond to the drone reports last week, used unidentified military technology to help airport authorities with the situation, the BBC said.

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