Gatwick drone attack: Police respond to claims ‘current or former airport employee’ responsible

Sussex Police has said it is keeping ‘an open mind’ about who was behind the Gatwick drone attacks in December, amid claims reported in The Times that it was ‘an inside job’.

The report in The Times this morning quotes Whitehall sources who said it was believed ‘a current or former airport employee’ was behind the incident which saw Gatwick airport closed for more than 30 hours after reports of drone sightings near the runway.

Gatwick Airport during December's drone incident

Gatwick Airport during December's drone incident

The culprit was ‘clearly someone with really good knowledge of Gatwick, someone who had worked there’, according to the sources quoted.

A spokesman from Sussex Police told this newspaper: “We are keeping an open mind about who is responsible and their motives.”

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment on the claims.

Sussex Police described its criminal investigation into the incident as ‘challenging in its scale and in the type and quality of evidence immediately available’.

Thousands of flights were cancelled as a result of the drone sightings at Gatwick

Thousands of flights were cancelled as a result of the drone sightings at Gatwick

Eye witness accounts of the drone, or drones, at Gatwick between Wednesday, December 19, and Friday, December 21, now total 130, the police spokesman said.

Of these accounts, 109 come from professional eye witnesses familiar with or working within the airport operating environment.

“The illegal drone incursions on this occasion were unprecedented, unpredictable and sustained and happened at times of the day making it difficult for the existing technology to track and identify,” the spokesman said.

“This remains a protracted and complex investigation in which all outstanding lines of enquiry are being pursued.”

Armed police at Gatwick Airport

Armed police at Gatwick Airport

Despite a reward of £50,000 for public information leading police to the person or persons responsible, the spokesman said police have not received ‘the critical information that we believed exists within the community’.

The College of Policing is due to release a review of Sussex Police’s actions during the drone attack at the end of the month.

New regulations

Yesterday, the Government announced it was extending the ‘no fly’ zone around airports following the incidents in Gatwick in December and at Heathrow a few weeks later.

It will be illegal to fly drones above 400ft or within one kilometre of an airport boundary from March 13.

The Government said in a statement: “While the use of drones at Gatwick and Heathrow was already illegal, it is extremely important that regulation provides protection which reduces, as much as possible, the airspace where drones and manned aircraft can come into close proximity with each other.”

SEE MORE: Gatwick drone disruption: Review of police response expected this month

Airport ‘no fly’ zone extended after Gatwick drone disruption