An Australian tech company claims it could end Gatwick Airport’s drone crisis in minutes – if the British Government allowed it.
Hundreds of thousands of passengers are stranded at London’s second-biggest airport days before Christmas as more than 800 flights were cancelled since about 9pm on Wednesday.
Gatwick remains completely shut down as drones are deliberately flown over runways by an unknown pilot terrorising the airport with no end in sight.
Australian firm DroneShield has the technology to quickly detect and disable all the drones and get Gatwick airport up and running again, but is blocked by regulations (pictured being used by police at Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast)
The technology, which has recently been tested with the British Army, could detect drones up the three miles (5km) away and jam them through the radio frequencies they used to operate
Oleg Vornik said his DroneShield company has the technology to quickly detect and disable all the drones and get the airport up and running again, but is blocked by regulations.
‘Airports are very complex environments so there’s always going to be lengthy process before new equipment is installed,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Often you need an event like this before that process is expedited.’
Mr Vornik said the technology, which has recently been tested with the British Army, could detect drones up the three miles (5km) away and jam them through the radio frequencies they used to operate.
This is the first picture of the drone causing chaos at Gatwick was last seen at 3pm today (circled) – just after Gatwick announced they hoped to re-open at 4pm
The drone has buzzed across Gatwick’s runway more than ten times since 9pm last night but police claim every time they get close to it it ‘disappears’
The drones could even be instructed to return to their pilot, which could allow police to track them down. This could all be done without interfering with airport systems.
He said airports needed to integrate counter-drone technology into their systems to detect drones before they could destroy an airline’s engines.
‘What’s happening in Gatwick is a nightmare, but worse would be if we didn’t know the drone was there and it brought down a plane,’ he said.
Mr Vornik said no airport in the world had drone protection installed as they were all waiting to not be the first, and hopefully the chaos at Gatwick would spur action.
The tens of thousands stuck in Gatwick’s two terminals have been forced to sit and wait as police tried and failed to find the pilot
Gatwick has said that its terminals are now full and urged anyone with a flight booked to check with their airlines before travelling there
He said police would likely have little success tracking down the culprit so Gatwick would be at their mercy until counter-drone technology was given the green light.
‘If someone is flying a drone around an airport, there is very little you can do to catch them. They can be flown from six miles (10km) away for hours without being detected,’ he said.
Mr Vornik said DroneShield was in discussions with British authorities and was hopeful a resolution could be reached soon.
The company’s technology has already been used at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in February, the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and at the past three Boston marathons.
At London Gatwick today, Hollie Smith was supposed to be flying to Lapland with her five-year-old twin nieces Gracie and Sofia (pictured) from Chelmsford to meet Father Christmas
Queues of passengers in the check in area at Gatwick Airport today as they wait for updates
Planes have been diverted to as far away as Bordeaux, Paris, Amsterdam and Shannon as well as the majority of airports in the UK
Military and police sniper were deployed along the perimeter of Gatwick Airport but have not tried to shoot down the drones because of safety fears.
Authorities believe the drone pilot is deliberately trying to disrupt airport operations, but though their motive was unknown it was not terrorism-related.
‘Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,’ Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, the airport’s policing commander, said.
‘I’m absolutely convinced it’s a deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick Airport.’
Experts at the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Impact Physics Lab simulated the damage caused by a drone involved in a high-speed collision with an aircraft wing
The drone flights are ‘highly targeted’ and have ‘been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas’, the airport’s chief executive officer Stewart Wingate said.
The airport said flights would be grounded ‘for the foreseeable future including tomorrow’ and passengers shouldn’t come to Gatwick at all.
Experts believed a large drone could take down a passenger jet because it could shred an engine if it was sucked in or destroy its windscreen or windows, causing a sudden drop in cabin pressure.
According to the British Airline Pilots Association, there were 117 near misses between manned aircraft and drones up until November this year, compared to 93 for the whole of 2017 – a rise of 58 per cent.
Timeline: How dangerous drone pilot managed to shut down Gatwick
Police are hunting for the expert drone pilot who has grounded hundreds of planes coming in and out of Gatwick by flying a drone at least ten time
Here is how the chaos has unfolded:
9pm, December 19: Drone is first spotted by airport staff hovering near the runway causing flights to be grounded or diverted.
9.15pm: It appears again leading Gatwick bosses to believe it is a deliberate act.
9.30pm – midnight: The drone is seen at least five more times in that period
3.01am, December 20: Airport re-opens its runway after the all clear is given
3.45am: Drone is seen again and flights are again grounded
7am: Small unmanned aircraft appears again
9am: Last sighting of the drone as police start hunting perimeter of the airport
Midday: Police are unable find the drone pilot despite it appearing again at lunchtime with Gatwick saying all flights are grounded until at least 4pm
2pm: Airport admits it has ‘no idea’ when it will re-open as police struggle to find the pilot
3pm: The drone is spotted again as it buzzes across Gatwick’s runway. It was just minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm.
4pm: Drone spotted flying over the runway yet again.
5pm: Ministry of Defence confirms that it is using specialist equipment to seek out the drone