Gatwick drone chaos: Airport 'drone drill' planned

Anti-drone equipment at Gatwick Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The chief constable said airports' ability to deal with future drone attacks had been enhanced

An airport 'drone drill' will take place later this year to try to improve responses to future threats after the Gatwick paralysis last month.

The plan was revealed in a letter from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to Sussex's police and crime commissioner.

Katy Bourne said Mr Grayling described the exercise as an "airport drone incursion rehearsal".

But the Department for Transport is refusing to give details of the drill for security reasons.

Mrs Bourne disclosed the plan during her monthly performance and accountability meeting with Sussex Chief Constable Giles York, who told her that agencies were already better able to deal with any future incidents after their Gatwick experience.

But the transport department will not disclose where or when it will take place, what it will involve, or whether other UK airports will be involved.

A spokesman said: "We keep aviation security under constant review but for obvious reasons we do not comment on specific security measures."

Image copyright PA
Image caption People were stranded at Gatwick and others due to land were redirected to different airports

Sussex Police came under scrutiny during the chaos at Gatwick after reported sightings of drones closed the airport for 36 hours shortly before Christmas.

About 140,000 people were affected by flight disruptions between 19 and 21 December as Gatwick shut its runway amid safety and security fears.

Two people were arrested in connection with the drone sightings but later released without charge.

The couple said the publicity following their arrests had made them feel violated.

Police were also accused of adding to the confusion by admitting that some of the sightings might have been their own drones.

Mr York told Mrs Bourne police had responded "quickly and robustly" and said the criminal investigation, led by "a senior officer with a full team", was continuing.

Drone investigation: facts and figures

  • 140,000 travellers affected
  • 67 drone sightings reported during the alert
  • More than 800 additional police shifts worked
  • More than 100 homes visited
  • More than 25 sites searched
  • Two arrests
  • No charges

And referring to the arrested couple, he said: "The police at no time gave out any details of that couple."

He added: "I am confident that we had contingency plans in place that had been tested nationally."

The chief constable said those plans had since been "enhanced" and shared with airports across the country.

He said authorities' capability to deal with such events had been strengthened as a result.

As well as the drone drill plan, police are planning an internal debriefing, involving the College of Policing, which Mr York said should conclude by the end of February.

Only certain aspects of the subsequent report are likely to be made public, he said.

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