House searched as man and woman held in Gatwick Airport drone probe

Gatwick Airport, Passengers, Crawley, West Sussex

A house near Gatwick Airport has been searched, while a man and a woman are being held over the drone chaos which affected around 140,000 passengers.

The 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman, from Crawley in West Sussex, were arrested in the town at about 10pm on Friday.

Sussex Police said the pair are being held on suspicion of “disrupting services of civil aviation aerodrome to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons”.

A house in Crawley – less than five miles away from the airport – was searched on Saturday, while Superintendent James Collis said investigations are ongoing.

“Our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones, by deploying a range of tactics,” he said.

“We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice.

“The arrests we have made are a result of our determination to keep the public safe from harm. Every line of inquiry will remain open to us until we are confident that we have mitigated further threats to the safety of passengers.”

Around 1,000 flights were cancelled or diverted after drones were spotted inside the perimeter of the UK’s second biggest airport on Wednesday at around 9pm, affecting approximately 140,000 passengers.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said on Saturday morning its runway was open and it was aiming to operate a full flight schedule.

But passengers were urged to check with their airline before traveling, with long queues and some knock-on delays remaining at the airport as airlines worked to clear a backlog of flights.

“Passengers should expect some delays and cancellations as we continue to recover our operations following three days of disruption and are advised to check with their airline before traveling to the airport,” the spokesman said.

“Safety is Gatwick’s top priority and we are grateful for passengers’ continued patience as we work to get them to their final destination in time for Christmas.”

On Saturday, the queue for check-ins stretched the length of the departures hall – while a heavy stream of passengers poured through the arrivals gates as a full schedule of flights operated.

In the departures line was the Shorrock family, from Oxford, who were flying to Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps for a skiing trip.

Vivienne Shorrock was “relieved” to have avoided the drone disruption, while David Shorrock joked: “They should’ve got some farmers here. They would’ve soon sorted it out.

“You get 100 young farmers here with a flagon of cider. Free cider for anyone who shoots the drone.”

Flights were briefly grounded at the airport on Friday evening after a fresh sighting at around 5.10pm, but military measures reassured operators it was safe to reopen the runway shortly afterwards.

Military equipment was used on Friday to stop further drone disruption while a range of tactics are in place if any unmanned aircraft are seen inside the perimeter.

One piece of equipment believed to have been deployed at the airport is the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar.

It can also jam communications between the drone and its operator, enabling authorities to take control and land the device.