A drone seen buzzing around London’s Gatwick Airport forced the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom to grind to a painful halt for multiple days this week. Tens of thousands of holiday travelers found their trips derailed as flights were canceled or delayed. Though the airport reopened on Friday morning, another potential drone sighting quickly closed the runway down again.
Though small, consumer drones could potentially pose serious risks to commercial jets. With the prevalence of drones increasing as they become cheaper and more available, aviation experts have called for increased research on the potential impact of airplane-drone collisions. In 2009, a flock of Canada geese collided with a jet in New York City, destroying both the plane’s engines and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. An individual goose is about 10 pounds, the size of some drones.
Authorities in the U.K. say they are exploring multiple options to deal with the potential threat. Though officials have remained unspecific regarding their methods, multiple news outlets reported that military-grade signal-jamming equipment had been brought into the airport, and news photos showed police armed with long-range rifles and shotguns. Around the world, officials employ a variety of methods to deal with drone threats, from signal jamming and gunshots to net-launchers and defensive drones. In the Netherlands, police have even experimented with training eagles to take down drones.
Police in the Sussex area said they were exploring multiple motivations for the “malicious” drone behavior, including an environmental protest. Though terrorism has not been ruled out as a motivation, officials say they have no indications that the drones are terror-related.
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