Will police shoot down the drones causing mayhem at Gatwick Airport

Will police shoot down the drones causing mayhem at Gatwick Airport

Rogue drone pilots are causing chaos for tens of thousands of passengers trying to fly to or from Gatwick Airport, with all flights grounded.

Dozens of police officers are involved in a hunt for the drone operators, who are suspected of deliberately attempting to disrupt arrivals and departures.

Armed police – including marksmen – have been seen near the runway, where the drones have been seen a number of times.

It appears the operators are playing a game of cat and mouse – the devices keep flying off when they’re approached and later returning.

But will the officers attempted to shoot down the devices? And, is it safe to try to bring them down that way?

Sussex Police, who are handling the incident, would not say what tactics they are considering to try to capture the drones, should the opportunity arise.

Officers have urged the public to call 999 if they have any information about the identity or location of the drone operators.

Earlier, Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said the force did not want to resort to trying to blast the drones out of the sky.

He said the drones had sparked "very significant disruption for passengers" but that police did not want to shoot them down because of the risk from stray bullets.

It was unclear if that position had changed.

Mr Woodroofe had said 20 police units from two forces were hunting for the pilot, adding: "The police are looking for the operator and that is the way to disable to drone.

"We also have the helicopter up in the air but the police advice us that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets."

A Gatwick spokesman declined to comment.

The drones have buzzed the airport a number of times, forcing officials to close the runway, ground departures and divert incoming planes to avoid a collision.

Drone pilots are banned from flying their devices above 400ft or within a kilometre of an airport or airfield perimeter.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg tweeted: “These drones have been flown illegally and the operators, who have acted incredibly irresponsibly, could face up to five years in jail.”

She told the BBC the Government was considering extending police powers to prevent drones causing airport disruption in the future, and using counter-drone technology.

Chris Foxx, the BBC’s technology correspondent, said there are some "left field" ways to bring down a drone, including lasers or nets.

He said: "At the more Star Wars end of things, you can use a laser to fire down drones.

"You don’t really want to be shooting missiles near airports, especially if there are planes coming into land.

"Boeing is one company that has been testing a laser that can track a drone, heat up the battery and cause it to set on fire to bring it down."

Another method that has been developed is a larger drone capable of catching the smaller drone with a net.

Some police forces have trained eagles or falcons to catch rogue drones.

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