back to article London's Gatwick airport suspends all flights after 'multiple' reports of drones

No flights have arrived or left London's Gatwick Airport since just before 21:00 UTC last night after drones were apparently spotted over the airspace. Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick's chief operating officer, told the BBC's Today programme [from 1:09.39] on Radio 4 this morning that 20 police units from two forces were hunting down …

  1. fedoraman
    Black Helicopters

    Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

    Look for someone charging up multiple drone battery packs from an airport terminal wall socket?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

      Could be someone working at Gatwick and wanting to have the rest of the week off?

      Watching the official reaction here I think that this will become a popular protest method for future runway expansions if you can shut an airport down with just a couple of drones.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

        Just wait until you are caught and faced with paying the airlines, passengers and the airport with compensation running into the millions...

        I think the drone operator(s) will be filing for bankruptcy in the very near future, as well as the fines and possible prison time.

      2. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

        I's easy to buzz an airfield with a non-geo-fenced UAV. Doing so without burning through a lot of drones and/or getting caught will turn out to be a lot harder, especially now every airport will be on the lookout and will know what to do next time. Prediction: a few amateur copycats will caught in the next year or so.

        These guys are not amateurs.

    3. adam 40 Bronze badge

      Christmas will be cancelled too

      Apparently there's a drone near the North Pole and Santa can't take off either.

      Tell all the kids.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

      If this amount of economic damage can be caused by what is effectively a child's toy, we have utterly failed as a nation.

      If it is being remote controlled, triangulating a signal is trivially easy with equipment that should be readily available to law enforcement services.

      If it is preprogrammed based on GPS, advanced military drones have been stolen through GPS spoofing by less technologically advanced adversaries: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/15/us_spy_drone_gps_spoofing/

      And then there are all the more aggressive options. Yes, there is miniscule and mitigatable probability of property damage where the bullet might land - what is that damage likely to be vs. economic damage caused? The mitigation is that you can make sure you fire on the drone from angles that have no built up areas in the most probable bullet landing spots.

      That this hasn't been resolved yet after a day is downright embarrassing.

      1. Justin Clift

        Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

        > And then there are all the more aggressive options. Yes, there is miniscule and mitigatable probability of property damage where the bullet might land - what is that damage likely to be vs. economic damage caused?

        Not seeing a need to use bullets?

        If the problem drone can be seen clearly enough to shoot it, then why don't the authorities just grab some drones themselves (from any kids store!) and ram those into the thing?

        Sure, kids store drones are unlikely to be strong. But several (say 10) of the things should do the trick.

        If they can't find someone with the required piloting skills... ask some kids. Pretty sure they'll be up for it. :)

      2. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: Multiple drones/operators/battery packs?

        ....we have utterly failed as a nation.

        The Daily Mail and BBC comments pages are just down the hall. Just follow the rolling eyes

  2. Overflowing Stack

    Unless it's a massive professional drone surely the mass is way less than that of a duck, which planes are designed to be able to cope with?

    When they find it they should put it on some giant scales next to something of the same mass... say a witch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ducks don't normally have a lithium battery that can become unstable when damaged hanging off their bum.

      They also can't easily be trained to fly into an area of maximum damage to the plane.

      Ducks would also not be easily be able to have a device that may be a security concern, say a small amount of explosive being dragged along underneath it.

      Don't want to get too paranoid, but the drones are obviously being used maliciously in that area - likely just a prank, but who knows?

      Ducks, well they're just stupid and accidental.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Ducks don't normally have a lithium battery that can become unstable when damaged hanging off their bum."

        I wouldn't worry about it catching fire. By the time it's damaged a wing leading edge or broken a compressor blade, there won't be much of the battery left.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          By the time it's damaged a wing leading edge or broken a compressor blade, there won't be much of the battery left.

          There are "soft" spots on the plane skin. For example you can hit the radome as in this supposedly drone accident from a few days back: https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/mexican-authorities-investigating-whether-drone-crashed-into-aeromexico-flight-1398464579774

          When a plane is taking off or landing it has most of its mechanization on the wing enabled. This opens lots of lovely hydraulics for a drone to "attend to" in a collision. That is way worse than hitting the wing leading edge or even an engine.

          There is also the cabin wind-shield. In fact, the drone strikes may be the final straw which will finally make the "crew looking out of this window" obsolete resulting in the crew being moved to a "secure compartment" and everything switching to cameras in 10-15 years time.

          By the way "bullets" is the wrong idea. You either use a missile (as on the anti-drone installations for the World cup this summer) or you use a shotgun mounted on another drone. The shot from a shotgun is relatively harmless at a distance as low as a few 100m and I have yet to see a drone which can sustain shot from a shotgun at point-blank range.

          1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            It doesn't really matter how much damage it would or wouldn't cause. If it were a military airfield in a conflict, they're be no problem : flights would continue unaffected and if one was damaged - very likely not fatally - at least the drone would be gone.

            But a commercial airport ? If they keep flying and there's any damage, non-damaging collision, near miss etc. guess who'll take the heat ? The drone pilot ? A little. The airport operators ? A lot.

      2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Ducks can also be quite tasty, drones - not so much.

      3. Richard Parkin

        Ducks not stupid (unlike TBW)

        People stupid not ducks,

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Unless it's a massive professional drone surely the mass is way less than that of a duck, which planes are designed to be able to cope with?"

      It's not mass on it's own that's the problem, it's mass *and* density. Otherwise you would be able to prove that a drone is a witch by seeing if it weighed the same as a duck.

      Anyway, planes cope with hitting a duck by turning around, landing (hopefully safely) with the fire crews in attendance and then having expensive repairs done. Of course, you could armour plate the aircraft, so you could hit as many ducks as you liked unless you ingested one in an engine, but then you'd have to carry a lot less passengers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can't we just train ducks to attack drones?

        1. ratfox Silver badge

          There are airports which keep hawks for getting rid of nearby birds...

          1. collinsl

            And hawks which attack drones:

            https://www.businessinsider.com/dutch-cops-train-eagles-to-snatch-drones-2016-2?r=US&IR=T

        2. veti Silver badge

          Better yet, get witches to attack the drones. Nobody likes a crowded sky, and the witches could use magic to ground them. Problem solved.

          1. Nick Kew Silver badge
            Coat

            Heh. Give Granny Weatherwax a taste for flying at Gatwick and clearing the sky of crap. And full-on headology on an airline pilot could be 'interesting'.

    3. silks

      Recent report suggests the drones are large, "industrial" type.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Coat

      the mass is way less than that of a duck

      Would that be a Eider or Eider duck?

      * Mine's the one with a copy Migratory Birds of the Northern Hemisphere in the pocket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Would that be a Eider or Eider duck?"

        I was thinking more along the lines of if "the mass is way less than that of a duck" then it would float and thus be made of wood .... burn the witch!

      2. caffeine addict Silver badge

        Would that be a Eider or Eider duck?

        Your choice. Eider one is fine with me.

      3. collinsl

        African or European?

    5. collinsl

      Ducks aren't made of metal and plastic which can melt and block up an engine.

      Plus those engines cost millions of pounds each so it's not worth pushing the risk.

    6. Paul Stimpson

      A duck and a drone of the same mass, traveling at the same speed have the same amount of energy. However, in a collision, they disperse that energy very differently. One goes splat, the other crunch.

  3. corestore

    I wonder if...

    There may be more to this than meets the eye. Reports of multiple sightings of multiple drones, from ~9pm through to at least ~3am.

    That's probably not some kid being stupid, or a prank. That's starting to look like we need to at least consider the possibility of a planned attack on infrastructure; a takedown of the airport. Maybe even a rehearsal; now imagine the same thing happening at several airports across the southeast; chaos cubed.

    1. Steve Button

      Re: I wonder if...

      Yes, agreed. This sounds like more than just some stupid kids* messing around. To fly for that amount of time, you'd need several batteries. Also, it's the middle of the night. And pouring with rain. And there's several of them. This is a bit more co-ordinated, and therefore worrying.

      I guess by this time next year, all airports will have drones with nets to catch the drones which aren't supposed to be there.

      * I say kids, but TBH it's always boys really. Or young men. We are definitely the stupider sex.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: I wonder if...

        Would be a good way for some climate change group to get lots of publicity while 'saving the planet'. Naturally, they'd have flown in on Daddy's private jet.

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          Would be a good way for some climate change group to get lots of publicity while 'saving the planet'.

          Likely true, and arguably justifiable. I knew some Plane Stupid activists that did stupider and less effective things. Their justification is recreational tourist flights are destroying the climate. They invaded a taxiway and faced longer sentences than the five years facing this culprit.

          The other most likely culprit is a local driven crazy by constant over-flights. One idiot near me launched fireworks at landing aircraft, and while again I do not approve of that at all as these tactics can distract a pilot and cause a crash, I do understand the motivation. When I was a kid sitting in my garden I would notice a flight going overhead every so often. Now every hour or so I notice the silence of an absence of flights.

          Even more idiotic folk shine LASERs at flights. If this was a crazy person then they'd have strapped laser pens to their drones to maximise tabloid horror.

          In truth there is negligible risk to aircraft from drones or lasers, but the negligible risk is potentially so dangerous it should be treated as attempted murder.

          I love flying, but I don't fly for rational reasons. Flying for fun should be as socially unacceptable as drink driving for fun.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            Flying for fun should be as socially unacceptable as drink driving for fun.

            Only if you don't understand reasoning and how its done. Drink driving deaths occur every week of every year; nobody has ever died of "climate change". You'll never find it on any death certificate.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: I wonder if...

              You'll never find it on any death certificate.

              You rarely see "stupidity" listed there either, but anecdotal evidence suggests it's a leading cause.

        2. Oddlegs

          Re: I wonder if...

          The irony is the huge stacking, diversions and finally re-arrangments of planes this will cause will massively increase the amount of CO2 released

      2. Dabooka Silver badge
        Go

        Re: I wonder if...

        Quote "I say kids, but TBH it's always boys really. Or young men. We are definitely the stupider sex."

        It's really disappointing in 2018 to see such a blatantly sexist and cliched comment on the Reg forums, suggesting that boys and men are inherently more stupid than females based entirely on their gender.

        Actually when you say it out loud it's kind hard to argue with isn't it. Carry on!

        1. Diogenes

          Re: I wonder if...

          As a teacher of teenagers let me say there is no difference in levels of stupidity,(or violence for that matter) its just the nature that is different

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: I wonder if...

          "Actually when you say it out loud it's kind hard to argue with isn't it. Carry on!"

          Absolutely spot on. After all, how man YouTube "prank" channels are hosted by girlies?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder if...

        We are definitely the stupider sex.

        What an outrageous sexist comment, you patriarchal fascist! Women can be as good as men at ANYTHING.

        And in the case of stupidity we should recognise that Theresa May, Amber Rudd, and Diane Abbott are boldly and successfully fighting back against the male domination of the craft.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          "And in the case of stupidity we should recognise that Theresa May, Amber Rudd, and Diane Abbott are boldly and successfully fighting back against the male domination of the craft."

          Shocking that you felt it necessary to leave out Andrea Leadsom, Anna Soubry, Louise Mensch and that one whose name escapes me who swears at Corbyn - compared to all of whom Diane Abbott is a genius.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            compared to all of whom Diane Abbott is a genius.

            I'm quite convinced my dog is smarter than Diane Abbott. They're about as good at adding up as each other, but my dog has a more likeable (ie not racist) personality, and she would draw the line at letting Jezza ride her around East Germany on his bike.

        2. JLV Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          how dare you forget Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin!

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            FFS, we're trying to forget Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin!

    2. wolfetone Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: I wonder if...

      Surely you'd try this out at a smaller airport like Luton or Birmingham?

      But you'e quite right, it's odd. Heavy rain, multiple sightings, and I heard on BBC Radio 5 this morning that Gatwick said they didn't look like consumer drones but more industrial.

      And, then you have to consider aliens too.

      1. theblackhand
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I wonder if...

        "And, then you have to consider aliens too."

        Or Blackhawks using covert technology to make them look smaller and less menacing.

        1. Morten_T
          Happy

          Re: I wonder if...

          You think they might be developing an SEP field and this is the first field test?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I wonder if...You think they might be developing an SEP field

            Not my problem, fortunately.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          And due to a miscalculation of scale the entire fleet was eaten by a small dog

      2. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if...

        @wolftone nothing to do with me...

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          LIAR!

      3. Huw D Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if...

        Oi, I'm flying out of Birmingham tomorrow. We'll have less of that nonsense, thank you!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          I'm flying out of Birmingham tomorrow.

          So you hope. At the time of writing, the combined might of Sussex Police, their chopper, and all the anti-terror police who hang around airports 24/7 have yet to collar anybody. Whoever is behind this has proven that a disruption strategy works well, and law enforcement are ineffective in response despite spending eighteen hours looking.

          If someone were doing this as some protest, presumably they'd not do all airports on the same day because incoming aircraft need diversion airports, and unless you're the Black Flag brigade, killing people is bad. So if Plod don't get the twerp today, where will they be tomorrow? Or worse, what if this is a co-ordinated plan, where the drone operator at Gatwick expects to be caught, but there's a wider plan for other activists to repeat the tactic elsewhere?

          Fingers crossed that its just a loner with mental health problems, a former employee with a grudge against Gatwick, or other "one off" motivation. Anyway, safe journey!

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            The “someone” might not have enough people to cover all airports at once, and if you do start recruiting lots of people, there’s a greater risk of recruiting undercover cops.

            1. Aitor 1

              Re: I wonder if...

              Not all, but ONE.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: I wonder if...

              The “someone” might not have enough people

              ...or drones.

    3. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      I heard an interview with airport staff at around 7am this morning where they said they'd seen it over the runways at various points the most revmcent being "around five minutes ago"

      So they we're still at it as recently as 7am.

      Time for the airport to nip into the duty free PC world buy a dji and send it on a suicide mission to collide with the offender?

      1. Gavin Chester

        Re: I wonder if...

        d3vy said:

        Time for the airport to nip into the duty free PC world buy a dji and send it on a suicide mission to collide with the offender?

        They don't sell them, I looked on a holiday last year, oddly most other airports do sell DJI stuff.

        However DJI stuff is geofenced, if the GPS says its within 1KM or an airport is simply wont take off.

        Can't imagine this is something off the shelf in use, the fact its not geofenced, and seems to have a really long battery life (been there 15 hours so far as far as I can tell) suggests this isn't a hobbyist grade bit of kit.

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          Ahh good point on the Geo fence.. forgot about that.

          A cheaper brand/home made jobbie could do it though.

          The airport really should have some anti drone tech... I suspect it's something they'll be looking at soon.

          I'm off to patent "fly swatter on a really long pole" ...

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          "...have a really long battery life (been there 15 hours"

          It's come and gone through the night suggesting battery changes.

          1. caffeine addict Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            This is what confuses me - you'd have thought that a combination of standard issue eyeballs and various tech at an airport (plus any gadgetry that has been brought in over the last 24h) would be able to spot where it was coming down. Even if the operator is moving around, it's got to be fairly easy to track.

            Failing that, stick a helicopter up next to it and make the operator abandon it or show their location.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: I wonder if...

              standard issue eyeballs

              For most of the time it's been dark and raining.

              1. JLV Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: I wonder if...

                >For most of the time it's been dark and raining.

                what, in the UK?

                yes, yes, my coat ;-)

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            Surely they could follow it back and see who’s doing the battery changes?

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      we need to at least consider the possibility of a planned attack on infrastructure; a takedown of the airport.

      Before you start pointing to terrorist point to all the disgrunted locals which have been fightiing against the airport for decades and are not particularly happy about the plans regarding the second runway: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/18/gatwick-plans-using-emergency-runway-to-increase-flight-capacity

      I am surprised this has not happened at Heathrow yet. Probably just a matter of time until it does.

      So some "technical means" to intercept and take the f***er down are very much overdue. Fight fire with fire and drones with drones. Ones with a shotgun instead of a GoPro on the mount.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        Re: I wonder if...

        Why use shotguns? Can't we find the control signal and use a radio guided missile? No controll signals should me the drone will auto-land. And people who've been blown up don't tend to re-offend.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          Why use shotguns? Can't we find the control signal and use a radio guided missile? No controll signals should me the drone will auto-land. And people who've been blown up don't tend to re-offend.

          -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          No, no, a thousand times no.

          Worried about a 10 gram bullet, but willing to let 10 kg chunks of missile rain down?

          Or maybe even an entire missile with a high explosive warhead?

          That risk is acceptable in wartime against someone trying to kill you, when civilian collateral casualties are less important than force protection... not in the middle of your own city in peacetime.

      2. CraPo

        Re: I wonder if...

        Talking of fire, don't airports usually have access to fairly powerful water canon. What is the maximum range of one of those things?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          don't airports usually have access to fairly powerful water canon

          Not the sort of water cannon you'd use to wack a Paris protester, no. The airfield fire tenders spray a foamed fire suppressant in high volumes over relatively short ranges - maybe a couple of hundred feet forwards, but the vertical range would not be very good, and the low density foam diffuses and slows in the air. If it is an industrial drone it would easily be above the likely range (not to mention the mess and clean up needed after you've just belched a tank of sticky and often toxic foam all over the show).

          1. paulll Bronze badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            The foamant/suppressant:water ratio's not fixed; In some circumstances they will bung a jug or two into the tank but in normal operation the suppressant is pulled into the stream from the jug by the venturi effect and there's a dial on the pump panel to set the ratio from a good few % down to zero. Similarly the nozzle can be adjusted anywhere from a pleasant mist to a concentrated stream.

            The unit i've used the most was a 300gpm nozzle that we ran at 125psi and was quite capable of a good 200ft almost straight-up; Similar, general-purpose rigs go up to 1000gpm and 200psi, and airport monitors are more powerful still.

            That said, they're not really designed for,"pew-pew," operation and actually hitting an object that's moving at any speed in 3D space would require some skill and a lot of luck, so it's probably more of a,"worth a punt," at best, than a definitive strategy ...

          2. Paul Stimpson

            Re: I wonder if...

            Didn't Boris Johnson buy one or more water cannon trucks to use against protestors in London, in full knowledge that it's illegal to deploy such things in the UK. If he did, I wonder if they are sitting parked up and might have been borrowed.

        2. Timbo

          Re: I wonder if...

          "Talking of fire, don't airports usually have access to fairly powerful water canon. What is the maximum range of one of those things?"

          Time to buy back those Boris water cannons, that BJ paid 300,000+ for and then London mayor sold for 11,000 as scrap....

          A small refinement to the reduce the bore of the end of the nozzle and that'll increase the water jets range and should dampen the drone.

          Otherwise, a RF detector should be able to se what frqequency is being used to control it and then just get a radio ham (or the miltary) to jam said signals. It'll take minutes and with no control frequencies, it should be easy to snag. (Or it'll fall to the ground).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I wonder if...

        If I were a local and a known (or suspected) dissident, I'd be worrying about a knock on the door.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder if...

      Brexit is looming, drones are the least of our worries.....

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if...

        *mutters* stupid brexit.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder if...

      Except nobody has provided a *single* verifiable image or video of this supposed professional drone fleet that has been flying for 24 hours now.

    7. tip pc Bronze badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      Sounds like a plot from die hard 2019,

    8. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      I would think that there is much more to this than meets the eye. I think that this whole event was staged now, at this date, for a very, very good reason.

      There are people in this world who are, to put it bluntly, quite startlingly stupid. Such people look at an entire airport shut down because of drones and think "Kewl, I want to try that!". These people are often teenagers, and a sizeable number of these teenagers will very likely be getting drones as Christmas presents.

      As soon as the morons get their Christmas drones, then unless the perpetrators are caught and a guard is put up at *every* UK airport to prevent the flying of drones near the airports, then an awfully large number of cheap Chinese mini-drones are going to be flown over, around and into airports next week.

      We badly need a cheap, throw-away anti-drone system of some sort.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder if...

      > There may be more to this than meets the eye.

      >

      > That's probably not some kid being stupid, or a prank.

      First contact with the inhabitants of Lilliputia, the planet of 1 inch people?

    10. spold Bronze badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      I see the problem, adjusting for size the authorities should be preparing for a 9/11 style attack on Legoland.

  4. Chris Tierney

    Something doesn't fly right with this story

    Especially if reports are to be believed and it was raining heavily. Most consumer drones will struggle to fly in rain and operator control using fpv alone would be impossible unless the drone had wipers over the camera. I'm wondering if this is all type?

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

      Also, how do you see a drone in the rain ?

      1. Steve Button

        Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

        Because they usually have bright green and red lights on them, so are pretty easy to see.

        1. Gio Ciampa

          Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

          Assuming, of course, that whoever is technically savvy enough to pull off this stunt hasn't, you know, taken them off...?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

            Why would they take the lights off? Maybe they want the drones to be seen and disrupt the airport. If not, why do they keep flying back, even with the news story ongoing?

            Methinks this is a bloody awful day for drone hobbyists. Legislation incoming at 12 o'clock. And we all know how well formulated this kind of emergency legislation with cross party support ends up being...

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

              They are too busy arguing about whether or not Corbyn said that May is a stupid woman to do anything like that today, and they are off on holiday tonight.

              She is the most incompetent Prime Minister in the entire recorded history of incompetent Prime Ministers, so calling her stupid is remarkably restrained.

              Also, calling her a “stupid woman” is not sexist, because putting the qualifier “stupid” in front of the word “woman” acknowledges that there are woman who are not stupid. Saying something like “women”, or “typical woman” in response to her outburst of stupidity would be sexist.

              As an example, when men start demonstrating their masculinity by acting in a stupid or aggressive manner, I just say “men” without any qualifying adjective, because I think all men are like that.

              1. David 132 Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

                katrinab ”They are too busy arguing about whether or not Corbyn said that May is a stupid woman to do anything like that today, and they are off on holiday tonight.”

                As someone said in a letter to the Telegraph today: “First time Corbyn’s ever said anything I agree with - and then he goes and denies it...”

            2. veti Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

              They're different drones each time. First there was some idiot who just didn't look where they were going. Then that was reported, and various other idiots sent their drones out to look at the fun. The BBC sent one to take footage of the closed runway, and the police sent a couple to try to track all the others...

              By now it's mostly desperate would-be travellers checking to see if anything's moving.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

            "Assuming, of course, that whoever is technically savvy enough to pull off this stunt hasn't, you know, taken them off...?"

            Or maybe painted them over.

      2. isometric

        Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

        Radio links, GPS, accelerometers and compasses all work just fine in the rain . . .

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

          Radio links, GPS, accelerometers and compasses all work just fine in the rain . . .

          This. And they worked just fine in Syria.. at least the ones that weren't shot down. But there's a few issues-

          A relatively cheap attack has created massive disruption as we head into silly season. Which of course means massive cost, not just for Gatwick, but other airports given aircraft are out of position.

          Because of the reporting, other idiots may think "Aha!", and repeat it. So expect large book to be thrown at any perpetrators that can be nabbed. Which may discourage some idiots, but not ones that may be doing this intentionally.

          Drones could be autonomous, ie pre-programmed flight plans and no nice radio links to triangulate and locate the operator. Somehow, nutjobs in Syria (and Israel) have this tech, and have used it to do terrorist acts. So there'll be a lot of interest in recovering these 'industrial' drones, and their source. And if we ask nicely, Russia may share data about the drones they've recovered. And how designs and components are being sourced.

          And given the genie has left it's bottle and gone for a joy-ride, it's what will happen next. So legislation around drone ownership, usage, possibly requiring transponders etc etc.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

            And if we ask nicely, Russia may share data about the drones they've recovered.

            They were very clear in their answer to Teresa May from about a month ago. It was blunt and to the point: "We do not deal with blackmailers" (*).

            This attitude is also universal, shared by 80%+ of the country and likely to remain this way regardless who is in power there. For a few generations. Do not shoot the messenger - I am simply stating the realities of today. A request for assistance to Lucifer and Beelzebub is more likely to be heard than a request to Russia.

            In any case, we simply cannot apply the method which was used in Syria, namely mess with GPS. Also, I believe the origin of the method is Iran which is even less likely to share its toys on it. Trying to give every flying thing the wrong idea about where the ground level is at a major airport.... Forget it.

            Disclaimer: I speak both languages, have lived in both countries and can put a "neutral third party nationality" hat to observe the proceedings and swear at both parties using a third (native) language. So do not shoot the messenger - the message is what it is.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

              In any case, we simply cannot apply the method which was used in Syria, namely mess with GPS. Also, I believe the origin of the method is Iran which is even less likely to share its toys on it. Trying to give every flying thing the wrong idea about where the ground level is at a major airport.... Forget it.

              Well, if the airspace is closed, all friendly aircraft are grounded and the effect can be safely localised, then adding 500ft to GPS 'ground' level could work.. although it may have unintended effects on other GPS users. But probably why the military are assisting as they may have better radar to track drones and mess with them. Sadly, they don't have Pantsirs, which I think got a couple of gun kills on the Syria drones.

              But the source of those could be fun.. Especially as they were used to attack Syrian/Russian assets from ISIL controlled areas, and Iran's been busily assisting in wiping them out. And of course the ones used against Israel may well have had Iranian help. Again the genie's out of the bottle, and the knowledge has been open-sourced.

              1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

                Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

                But the source of those could be fun.. Especially as they were used to attack Syrian/Russian assets from ISIL controlled

                Nope. Aleppo province. Our "good" guys. So actually, we can just ask a friendly "first responder" for the appropriate information.

                Sadly, they don't have Pantsirs,

                Theoretically, that is not such a bad idea as its ammunition is supposed to self-destruct at a fixed distance, same as on the Kashtan. Practically, I would not rely on that. 20mm autocannon is great at a military base with an exclusion area put in place after mortar attacks. Civilian airport - not so much.

                It will be more interesting to see the spec of what was used in the World Cup or some of the latest Israeli toys. They are designed to operate in the middle of an inhabited area which is actually a hell of a design problem.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

                  Nope. Aleppo province. Our "good" guys. So actually, we can just ask a friendly "first responder" for the appropriate information.

                  I'm thinking of the January attacks against Hmeimim near Latakia. The BBC described the drones as "The UAVs featured an engine taped to a wooden frame, which carried two "home-made mines", it added." and there were some images later of the 'mines' looking like mortar shells. But RC plans + open source drone code and a modest amount of skill results in something nasty. Of course that later got spun into 'US drones' being used in that attack. Such is politics.

                  It will be more interesting to see the spec of what was used in the World Cup or some of the latest Israeli toys. They are designed to operate in the middle of an inhabited area which is actually a hell of a design problem.

                  AFAIK some of the Israeli attacks were countered by Iron Dome. So $400k missile vs <$1,000 drone.. Or often an equivalent of an ancient Congreve rocket. Israel can mitigate some of it's risks via it's attack warning system so people take shelter, and Iron Dome's trajectory tends to be in the general direction of Gaza/Lebanon. But as you say, it's a wicked problem. What goes up, must come down and in a war-time situation, collateral damage may be more acceptable than in SE England. Detection seems the simple bit, ie current counterbattery detection systesm, it's the servicing of the threat that's the challenge.

                  (And I think that's also a general UK problem, ie a lack of SAM systems)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

              > A request for assistance to Lucifer and Beelzebub is more likely to be heard ...

              According to general folk lore, aren't those two very likely to not only hear the request, but also deliver on it.

              With pricing tending to be fairly steep. First born children, et al.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

            And given the genie has left it's bottle and gone for a joy-ride, it's what will happen next. So legislation around drone ownership, usage, possibly requiring transponders etc etc.

            -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

            Because no one with a few motors, batteries, bits of aluminum, a GPS receiver, and a tiny computer could build a drone.... clearly impossible....

        2. YARR

          Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

          but unshielded electric motors as on most consumer drones aren't designed for use in rain, and operating instructions say not to do so. Also the camera lens wont see anything through the rain drops without a lens wiper. This incident sounds like no ordinary drone - assuming there really did positively ID it at night and aren't jumping to conclusions.

          We don't need new laws - but better enforcement of existing laws. Airport security ought to be equipped with jammers to intercept drone operator frequencies, or triangulators to identify the location of the operator.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      Re: Something doesn't fly right with this story

      Indeed, my neighbour is a drone enthusiast, and won't fly in bad weather.

      Though when we saw fallen roof tiles the (calm, sunny) day after a storm, one of his drones was really useful in finding whose roof they came from. Turned out to be another neighbour.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bbc quotes

    I'm not quoting to sneer, just to sum up the average joe's perception of the world:

    Ms Jaworska said she thought it was "strange" that two drones had led to the closure of the airport.

    "You would imagine there would be better security in place and emergency action for something like that," she added.

    In short, there's a belief that "the government is in control", and this includes anything and everything: climate change, terrorism, drone manace, economy, and, what else, brexit. Well...no.

    And yet, and yet... the public needs to be reassured! So, we can expect some statements very soon (and it's almost Christmas), that all's well, the appropriate authorities have it under control, police are investigating, and there's absolutely no danger.

    p.s. these days the Russians (who replaced the terrorists as the evil ones), don't need to launch anything, other than 50 - 100 drones controlled remotely, or pre-programmed, and make them head towards all major airports, say, on a pre-Christmas rush day. Must be the cheapest way to inflict the most chaos and loss of money ever...

    1. Michael B.

      Re: bbc quotes

      Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK when we are barrelling headlong into our own self inflicted chaos.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bbc quotes

        Maybe it's Jacob Rees-Mogg distracting the government so they don't stop hard Brexit.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: bbc quotes

          It would be easy to tell, the drones would be steam powered. (The steam of course created by hot air.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: bbc quotes

            They sort of are steam powered actually because the electricity to charge the batteries likely came from a power station.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: bbc quotes

          Not Rees-Mogg's style. His weapon of choice isn't a drone, it's a Boris. Make a speech that grabs the attention of Boris's disciples, and stand well back as the stunt follows.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK

        in the event of a conflict, what's cheaper, a couple of missiles, or a couple dozen drones? This is just to take into account COST/EFFECT ratio, never mind other factors (deniability v. side effects to your own side when launching nukes, tradition (Russia is weak, relatively speaking, also on military side - to counterweight that, they have become brilliant at thinking "out of the box", and "out" means in ANY direction), etc. So drones v. airports is just one tiny vector (on top of obvious ones, like general FUD over social media, disrupting mobile networks, spreading disease, etc). Generally, what is required is disruption and delay in decision-making. A goal would be to win a (potential) conflict, without getting nuked in return. We like our comforts (brilliant weakness, to the Russians) and we're a democracy, of sorts (a brilliant weakness to the Russians). There must be loads of, CHEAP and creative ways to pressurise a comfy society into pressurizing its own government not to get involved in a non-conflict in some distant, obscure place, where people speak Russian anyway, nobody's getting slaghtered, at least not on tv, and all to avoid a NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST is to do - nothing. Peace for our time, eh?

        btw, I'm not saying Russians are behind those drones, in fact, they'd be the last ones to bring attention to this potential attact vector (which is pretty obvious anyway). The vector is there, but no government is going to admit it to their voters: sorry, there's nothing we can do about it, oh, and for the record, no magic zap guns, just carry on and pretend it's not a problem! And "Merry "festive / nativity fucking season greetings to you all!" And, of course, "happy brexit".

        OK, time to collect my hard-earned roubles :(

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK

          It's not chaos if the the state sponsor is the UK itself.

          Hey, it seems like a good strategy to stop it's subjects from spending money abroad if possible, a few meals and rather more than a few pints at airport prices is probably good for the economy.

          Then there's the worry of letting too many slaves off the galley UK before the leave EU date.

          Hey, they're already priming the army to ensure things keep running (I'm sure we'll all be feeling more Agile with a soldier with a gun standing behind us).

          1. Scott 53

            Re: Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK

            I can't see this government trying to prevent people leaving the country.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK

          in the event of a conflict, what's cheaper, a couple of missiles, or a couple dozen drones?

          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          In terms of cost-effectiveness? A couple of missiles.

          It's hard enough to bring down an aircraft with purpose built missiles that it took most countries around 40 years to figure out how to do it more often than not.

          Drones are a psychological threat and a nusiance, but relatively unlikely to actually produce serious damage... or to hit a moving aircraft at all.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would a foreign power waste

        every little helps ;)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bbc quotes

        "Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK when we are barrelling headlong into our own self inflicted chaos."

        At Putin's annual press conference yesterday he said "Not to implement Brexit would be to repudiate 'direct democracy,' "

        ROFL

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bbc quotes - Why would a foreign power waste time and effort inflicting chaos on the UK

        Vladimir Putin has supported May's agreement.

        One sentence in passing in a long press conference and he does more damage than any number of airport drones.

    2. Andytug

      Re: bbc quotes

      Unfortunately the so called "rule of law" is exactly that, it relies on everyone following the rules and not being £%*$ to each other. All it needs is a big enough number of people to start being £%*$ and there's not a lot the police etc can do about it.

      Problem is that the number is increasing......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the number is increasing......

        on a similar issue, I took a train ride last night, train almost empty, but about 2/3 of passangers had their feet in their shoes and boots comfortably parked on the seat in front of them. At least in those 2 - 3 coaches I walked through.

        WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!

        1. Alien8n Silver badge

          Re: the number is increasing......

          @AC

          "on a similar issue, I took a train ride last night, train almost empty, but about 2/3 of passangers had their feet in their shoes and boots comfortably parked on the seat in front of them. At least in those 2 - 3 coaches I walked through.

          WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!"

          Quite simple really, years of austerity and increasing train fares, no one else can afford to take the train.

          Oh, you meant the feet on the seats? Probably just tired

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the number is increasing......

            Quite simple really, years of austerity and increasing train fares, no one else can afford to take the train.

            Well, train passenger numbers have increased by something of the order of 125% in a steady growth since privatisation of the railways. But don't let facts spoil your narrative.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: the number is increasing......

              What is this train thing to which you refer? out here we have a bus that pretends its a train, Transport for Wales (would be more accurate to call it Transport for Cardiff and its Surrounds) has a shortage of working trains, so they shared out the opain by heaping all the cancellations and service downgrades to rural areas.

              We'd love a TRAIN seat to have the opportunity to put our feet on!!!!

              The increase in usage is in part explained by the social engineering caused by the ludicrous level of house prices where people often cannot afford to live near where they work.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: the number is increasing......

          "[...] but about 2/3 of passangers had their feet in their shoes and boots comfortably parked on the seat in front of them."

          A few years ago an academic studied how people in England reacted to subtle boundary markers. A previous study had used sandcastles on a beach. Each was built with a defined boundary feature. Most people walking across the beach went round the boundary.

          The new study showed people tended to just walk through the sandcastle.

          I see the same thing in town. A supermarket has a pedestrian path along one side. Half of the width is protected by a roof supported by a row of columns that effectively divides the path into two lanes. The outer lane is separated from the car lane by a row of waist-high bollards.

          In the past such an architectural feature was a subtle way to produce separate lanes for each direction. Nowadays even two people walking at the same speed, often together, tend to spread themselves either side of the columns. This then forces people in the other direction to go into the car lane.

          1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

            Re: the number is increasing......

            I used to do that on city buses. In fairness to my younger self, this was in Denver, where it seldom rains, so at worst I was transferring dust to the seat. And I did not do this when it was crowded.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: the number is increasing......

              I used to remove my shoes if I was going to use the opposite seat as a footrest.

        3. nijam

          Re: the number is increasing......

          > WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!

          Not enough legroom in railway carriages, that's what.

    3. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: bbc quotes

      don't need to launch anything, other than 50 - 100 drones controlled remotely, or pre-programmed,

      This is a very good point. Compared to the price of a missile, a couple of dozen drones with big batteries, programmed to take off at 30 minute intervals from locations within a mile of the airfield. You could bugger up any airport for days.

      What's the best power/weight ratio for something like that anyway? For a one off disruption that doesn't need to worry about recharging. Is it still liOn?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bbc quotes

        What's the best power/weight ratio for something like that anyway? For a one off disruption that doesn't need to worry about recharging. Is it still liOn?

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        If the drone is big enough - and not really all that big - probably kerosene/air.

    4. Florida1920
      Alert

      Re: bbc quotes

      So, we can expect some statements very soon (and it's almost Christmas)
      Santa will not be visiting the Gatwick area. The reindeer are terrified of drones.

      1. Pete4000uk

        Re: bbc quotes

        A job for Domonic the Donkey!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously Chinese drones

    Built by SuperMicro natch.

    Anon because, well, you know, irony/sarcasm failure by BigBro and all that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obviously Chinese drones

      Probably Chinese drones.

      Because of cost and easy availability....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This will be last visit by the Lilliputians to the UK for Christmas then ?

  8. johnmayo

    Maybe this tech could help?

    https://www.aaronia.com/products/solutions/Aaronia-Drone-Detection-System/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Assuming it picks up these drones. What kind of drones were these anyway? Maybe they use a different frequency from something you could detect?

    2. PyLETS
      Unhappy

      Drone detection may be difficult

      This product detects them based on RF emissions. A pre-programmed drone which doesn't need a controller won't need to emit RF. I guess the next generation in drone stealth capability will involve the transfer of technology (e.g. radar non-reflective materials) that goes into modern fighter jets. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation-absorbent_material

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dogbert has it all sorted : https://dilbert.com/strip/1989-05-18

  9. 0laf Silver badge

    Droning

    I would suspect prank. And I would take reports of them being 'large, professional' type devices with a pinch of salt for now.

    But.....As an act of state sponsored disruption it's pretty low risk for the effect. Send in some low rent heavies with off the shelf drones to repeatedly buzz large airports causing millions of pounds worth of disruption. If your guys get caught they'll probably just get a summons by which time they are safely back in the motherland. If they do end up in the clink for a short while I'm sure the offer of some adequate compensation will make their time go past fast enough.

    On a long term basis this is cheap, effective and and as said low risk to state and operative. Much like Facebook or Twitter trolling.

    If it's not the Russians or Norks this time I'm sure they are taking notes on the respons to a couple of drones.

    1. Scunner

      Re: Droning

      If they do get caught I doubt it'll be just a summons, as anti-terrorism legislation would probably be deemed to be relevant to what they've done. You can't cause the closure of a major airport and just expect a smack on the wrist as the only outcome.

      1. PyLETS

        relevant legislation

        Section 3ZA of the computer misuse act which affects national infrastructure has a maximum penalty of 14 years. Same goes for supplying tools. So someone designing and supplying a drone to be pre-programmable, with stealth capabilities and to ignore exclusion zones knowing it would be used in an incident of this nature would be guilty of a section 3A offence - current maximum 2 years.

        https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/computer-misuse

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Chocolate teapot

          Bit of a problem there - the 'design' is already out there - it's code built into almost all the open source drone control software. OK - if someone is selling 'Stealth Drone - ignore the man's rules' on Amazon that's an issue - but if you want to ban the tech you are talking about banning the sales of any light single board PC (arduino, raspberry pi, android phones, iphones etc) and while you are about it probably better make knowledge of any computing language a thought crime. Not saying that the latter two options wouldn't make the world a better place..... So much of this comes across like the question on a US immigration form 'Are you planning to come here and commit a terrorist offence? Tick yes or no'

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Chocolate teapot

            So much of this comes across like the question on a US immigration form 'Are you planning to come here and commit a terrorist offence? Tick yes or no'

            I was behind a pensioner in a crowded, sweaty consulate who hadn't filled out her visa application.

            The poor guy had to shout the questions to her, and they became amusing.

            "Have you or any of your relatives ever been a member of the Nazi party?"

            "No son, my man John would never have tolerated that"

            "Have you or any of your relatives ever been a member of the Communist party?"

            "Well, John was a trade unionist for the miners, and he was a Communist, but he died twenty years ago. People would come to our cottage for help, and he'd talk to them, but I was never allowed to stay in the living room with them. I'm just wanting to visit my daughter"

            To the great credit of late 1980s USA she was allowed in to visit her daughter.

            The very best yes/no question I have ever been asked was when I was being tested for breast cancer by the NHS. The form asked, "Are you still having your periods? Y/N"

            I get most people who have breast cancer are female, but it is deadlier in males and few males even know they can get it. That question was the nicest part of that day.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Facepalm

            Re: Chocolate teapot

            Bit of a problem there - the 'design' is already out there

            When did that ever stop politicians?

            That's not just encryption. Remember, for instance, Iraq could deploy chemical weapons within 45 minutes: I guess that's how long it takes to head down to the supermarket and buy bleach ...

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: relevant legislation

          But if they were "Protest Drones" then they would certainly be guilty of terrorism and then accidentally transferred to the US,.

  10. Augie

    Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

    Stray bullets.. really?? what happens every bloody pheasant season??? surely a shotgun blast will suffice to bring the drone down.. like they do pheasants with minimal risk to the public??

    1. 0laf Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

      Crossed my mind as well but likely they are too high to be hit with shotgun pellets in an effective way. And having been sprayed with shot that has come a long distance I can state that although not life threatening it still bloody hurts and you really wouldn't want to be hit in the eye with it.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

        Crossed my mind as well but likely they are too high to be hit with shotgun pellets in an effective way.

        Came here to say much the same thing; effective shotgun ranges are much less than those for rifled weapons.

        Added to which pheasant shoots tend to take place in unpopulated areas, and are likely to be "driven" so that pellet fall can be guaranteed to be in a safe area.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

          Added to which pheasant shoots tend to take place in unpopulated areas, and are likely to be "driven" so that pellet fall can be guaranteed to be in a safe area.

          Most of Gatwick is surrounded by fields, I'll wager that every single farmer has and uses a shotgun for controlling everything they class as vermin, and that causes no challenge. The argument for not shooting it down doesn't wash. The police will happily taser the mentally ill multiple times and accept the risk they might die, they undertake risky high speed car chases, they have (at last) started ramming moped robbers off their stolen bikes....so having grounded all flights they should stop pissing around and bring the thing down by force.

          If it is too high for a shotgun, then have a police marksman stick a 7.62mm round through it. If they can't pop a cap in the arse of a slow moving target against a light background then they should be handing back the firearms certification.

          1. Commswonk Silver badge

            Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

            ...then have a police marksman stick a 7.62mm round through it. If they can't pop a cap in the arse of a slow moving target against a light background then they should be handing back the firearms certification.

            Oh dear. Firstly rifle sights aren't zeroed for use at high angles of inclination (or declination); secondly for sights to work the range must be known to a reasonable degree of accuracy; thirdly although the overall footprint of a drone might be quite large, there is actually a lot of empty space there - a lucky shot could be well inside the perimeter of the drone but still miss; fourthly where does the drone then (crash) land, and lastly where does the fired round finish up?

            And of course if the drone is moving then getting a steady shot at a distance is (a) difficult and (b) likely to miss because the drone is moving at an unknown speed.

            1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
              Black Helicopters

              Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

              Perhaps we could let anyone convicted of pointing lasers at planes have a go at these drones as a way to do some community service and work off some of their sentences.

              Icon because it is the closest thing to a laser warning sign El Reg provides.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

                Perhaps we could let anyone convicted of pointing lasers at planes have a go at these drones as a way to do some community service and work off some of their sentences.

                ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                Pointing lasers is bad because it can make it hard for a pilot to see outside references and instruments, and thus control the aircraft. Drones don't work that way.

                1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

                  If you are trying to blind the drone, you're doing it wrong. See for example US Navy's new drone-killing laser. My original post obviously was in jest; allowing people with a record of such behavior to do exactly the same thing as caused problems before does not strike me as particularly constructive.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

            If it is too high for a shotgun, then have a police marksman stick a 7.62mm round through it. If they can't pop a cap in the arse of a slow moving target against a light background then they should be handing back the firearms certification.

            ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

            Hitting a flying target is hard, even for a radar guided gun... which is why everyone eventually switched to missiles as the primary AA weapon.

            At any reasonable distance it would take real machine guns and a LOT of rounds to have a good chance of hitting.... probably burning more ammo than the drone cost, by orders of magnitude... and then you have thousands of bullets falling over the city.

            Not the best plan.

          3. Simon Reed

            Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

            No, a fair bit of Gatwick airport is surrounded by airfield assets, aircraft and vehicles. Bullets dropping out of the sky at terminal velocity will not do aircraft any good.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

          Came here to say much the same thing; effective shotgun ranges are much less than those for rifled weapons.

          So what is the issue with both of that if the shotgun is hanging on a mount under another drone? You would even want to have it sawn off to get good wide coverage. As the Sicilans call it "Lupara" or as it is known in Eastern Europe: "Обрез".

          Throw in some high grade night vision optics +/- laser distance measurement and a bit of compute to get reasonably good coordinates for a programmable flight close-up so you do not have to use fpv all the way and voila. Here is your drone interception system. Perfectly safe for everyone on the ground.

          1. RancidRodent

            Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

            No need for shotguns or live ammo rounds, a few rounds from a competition air rifle would be enough to bring a drone down with pretty much zero risk of collateral damage. That said, I still don't think the drone actually exists.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

        I've been hit by a single shotgun pellet that dropped out of the sky on me. A couple of hundred feet from where the shot was fired. Bounced off with nothing more than a statuary curse!

      3. ckm5

        Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

        Shotgun with plastic pellets or rock salt from a helicopter. Hell, even a blast of water would do it.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

      What you don't want around in an airport is more FOD - what could be acceptable in a marsh near you is not inside an airport perimeter.

    3. Timbo

      Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

      "Stray bullets.. really?? what happens every bloody pheasant season??? surely a shotgun blast will suffice to bring the drone down.. like they do pheasants with minimal risk to the public??"

      To be able to shoot down one of the drones, you need to be able to see it and be in range of it.

      A shotgun, might be good enough, IF the drone is directly above the weapon used to shoot it down. Otherwise, the distance to the drone would be greater than it's altitude, if the shooter was on the ground - so the range is increased so a scatter gun approah won't work so well.

      If you used a rifle and missed the bullet would travel in a trajectory that would eventually come down and could hit someone or something.

      I think the best option is a helicopter (or three) patrolling the perimeter, and hanging from it/them, a large net strung across a wide pole. The choppers then just sweep around (as nothing is flying in the area as landings and take offs are suspended) and you'll catch the drones.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

        I think the best option is a helicopter (or three) patrolling the perimeter, and hanging from it/them, a large net strung across a wide pole. The choppers then just sweep around (as nothing is flying in the area as landings and take offs are suspended) and you'll catch the drones

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        I suspect this would be a lot harder than it sounds.

        That said, it is the first suggestion here that might work with reasonable containment of risk of collateral damage....

        Other than an AA missile, depending on how much groundside damage you want to have to explain.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow, blundering around like freshly castrated cattle.

      Stray bullets.. really?? what happens every bloody pheasant season??? surely a shotgun blast will suffice to bring the drone down.. like they do pheasants with minimal risk to the public??

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      You do know that shooting pheasants is low risk beause the effective range of a shotgun is about as far as the average person can through a non-trivial rock, don't you?

      And that shot does not do a lot of damage?

      If a drone gets that close, you are probably better off with a few crossbows.

  11. BenM 29

    marketing ploy

    I reckon its just a marketing ploy for Phalanx - they have no chance of intercepting hypersonic devices so now they need to bolster their income somehow... drones would be a much easier target....

    I wonder if they offer a ground based turret system suitable for airports?

    /me gets tinfiol hat and coat

    Alternatively, as others have mentioned, this seems to be a great way of causing maximum disruption in a foreign state should such disruption suit your nefarious plans...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "no chance of intercepting hypersonic devices"

      I'm waiting to see that hypersonic devices are up to the hype, and have actually a real chance to hit a moving target...

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Christmas conspiracy

    Am I the only one thinking this whole affair could have been 'false flag', deliberately engineered in an attempt to force changes in drone legislation?

    Some of those 'we had to turn the plane round after being blinded by lasers' tales seem a little far fetched to me.

    There have long been calls for more extensive and restrictive drone legislation and some causus belli would be just the thing to move that along.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Christmas conspiracy

      It's not beyond the realms of possibility that our own UK Government agencies are doing this, so the follow up is 'We need more control over peoples drones' is trotted out with justification of 'Look at the disruption they caused'.

      Take a moment to think why Governments would want to impose control over the UK population having the ability to fly drones with cameras...

      It could be idiots, it could be external state malicious actors, but you have to consider as a possibility the UK government doing it too (under-cover state Secret Service teams infiltrating the miners strike anyone...)

    2. Andrew Moore

      Re: Christmas conspiracy

      This is the current thought in the office (we fly drones and do drone training). Either that, or there has been some system failure in Gatwick and they are using "drones" to cover it up.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Christmas conspiracy

        "some system failure in Gatwick and they are using "drones" to cover it up."

        ooh , good one

      2. The Mole

        Re: Christmas conspiracy

        My thought was more along terrorism investigation lines - a way to keep everyone in the airport whilst they search all the bags (or whatever) and identify who the bag belongs to without tipping the fact they know about the plot.

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Christmas conspiracy

        "or there has been some system failure in Gatwick and they are using "drones" to cover it up."

        That'll be next weeks "who, me?" story then :)

  13. paulll Bronze badge

    Hate to sound sceptical, but... any reports of anybody having actually seen these,"drones,"? Anybody other than,"they," I mean.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Out of interest, where was Venus at 7am this morning?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Probably wherever you had it last dear...

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        It's 7am. Do you know where your goddess of love is ?

  14. Tom Wood

    The internet

    Can't these things be controlled remotely from the internet? How are they planning to find the operator when s/he could literally be anywhere?

    1. Andrew Moore

      Re: The internet

      Yes but that would be illegal as the operator has to have eyes on the drone at all times while in flight.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: The internet

        "has to have eyes on the drone"

        not to mention "has to avoid shutting down an airport"

      2. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: The internet

        I'm sure anyone stupid enough to do this isn't worried about legality!

      3. D@v3

        Re: The internet

        I really hope that was the sound of a joke wooshing over my head and not another drone.

        Something tells me, since operating a drone within the immediate area of an airport is illegal, that being 'double illegal' by flying 'eyes off' wouldn't really be much of a concern.

  15. Crisp Silver badge
    Boffin

    Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

    Just build a slightly bigger drone with a claw to grab errant drones and neutralise them.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

      They have hawks for the birds, the could have robo-hawks - but the technology may not be there yet. Chasing a drone and neutralizing it without causing more damage would require a quite good AI or operator.

      1. Am

        Re: Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

        I'm sure I was reading somewhere about eagles being trained in anti-drone action...

        Edit: OK - the Dutch tried it and it failed, and now the Swiss are trying it.

      2. sweh

        Re: Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

        Flesh'n'blood hawks do the job just fine; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5DEg2qZzkU

        1. hmv Bronze badge

          Re: Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

          Until they come back with the complaint: "Well they're a piece of piss to catch, but they taste bloody awful even if they are crunchy"

      3. Persona Bronze badge

        Re: Why not kit out airports with anti-drone drones?

        You don't need the police drone to catch it. Just follow it till it's low on power and its operator recovers it to recharge the batteries, and dispatch a police control to apprehend them.

  16. Skier Boris

    Apart from saying they have teams looking for the operators, I am intrigued how police are searching? I'd assume, based on very limited knowledge, that you could scan and trace signals from controllers, which would help target location??? Don't know - interested.

    As for punishment - chucking them into Gatwick departure lounge should suffice

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      I too am intrigued . If the drone was constantly flying around *maybe* they could triangulate ,(then shoot it) but it only pops up every hour or so to guarantee continued closure.

      Thats assuming its not on a radio free pre programmed flight.

      As it is , with the drone not even flying most of the time , i have a picture in my head of policemen wondering around the airfield , or surrounding streets , hoping to ... well .... god knows

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I am intrigued how police are searching?"

      I'd start with a bit of map work. Unless we're not being told nobody's reported their neighbours operating them or reporting having seen them from a passing car. So you start looking for some isolated locations not too far away. Then get airborne to check them out.

  17. 0laf Silver badge

    Prisons seem to have an effective antidrone tech in place to stop drug drops. I appreciate that the area to be covered for an airport is vastly more but have the airport authorities been loking into the tech that is available.

    It's all well and good talking about legislation but if you have some headbanger that wants to casue disruption they're probably going to do it no matter how big the writing in the statute book is.

    1. Craig 2
      Joke

      Covering the airport in heavy duty netting might impede the planes somewhat...

  18. Gordon861

    Pictures?

    Why has no one come up with any pictures yet?

    We have an airport with loads of CCTV and lots of people looking for them but no one has decided to try and take a picture of it.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Pictures?

      Airports are huge, drones are (relatively) tiny, night time is dark, rain is wet, and CCTV is low resolution. If/when any photos or videos are released, prepare to be severely disappointed.

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: Pictures?

      Have you seen the normal picture of a UFO taken with a mobile phone?

      Mobile phones generally have fairly wide angle lenses; they are designed for taking pictures of people or animals at fairly close ranges; zoom is generally non-optical so the more picture is cropped away, the lousier the image becomes.

      So, the likely mobile phone footage of a drone buzzing an airfield will be a huge dark field with a tiny flickering, flashing light dancing around randomly somewhere in the field; this could be absolutely anything.

  19. DialTone

    Are these stealth drones?

    I was led to believe that the police had a helicopter in the air - I'm a little puzzled how they are unable to follow the drone to its point of landing? Surely the drone has a much shorter possible flight time than a fuelled helicopter, and the heat from the ESC, motors and batteries can easily be seen/followed on FLIR camera, especially at night?

    On a related note, despite the increase in "naughty pilots" (OK, imbeciles in this case), the airports and police still appear to have no strategy for dealing with this growing "problem" - like procuring and operating their own technology to aid in both the prevention of such issues and the locating and arresting of rogue operators? There are several possible approaches to this (ranging from capture nets, signal jammers; either for control or FPV, Blinding FPV cameras with lasers etc) that could form the basis of such a strategy. Is this simply an "acceptable risk vs cost" situation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Genies and bottles

      I never thought that there was a topic that could attract more twats than Brexit - but some of the commentators on Radio 4 this morning..... - one suggested geofencing as a solution! Multiple incursions over 6 hours by multiple drones isn't little Johnny playing with an early Xmas present. It sounds deliberate. If it is deliberate then 'rules', jamming, blinding etc are all fairly pointless. The code to 'fly' a drone is in the GPL'd wild. The hardware costs pocket money. Drones can be autonomous (so no jamming, blinding) and disposable.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Genies and bottles

        quite - there is no obvious solution to this at this time.

        God knows what the huge amounts of police drafted in could possibly be doing.

        It kinda reminds me of the Gaza situation with missiles being lobbed over the border.

        I guess in the future a drone defence system similar to Isreals Missile defence system may be developed.

        IE homing explosive packed intercept drones.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: Genies and bottles

          Autonomous flying-object seeking drones on guard at an airport.

          Yup. That'll fly.

  20. Stratman

    Just look at Youtube tomorrow, for "Wikid pikz of Gatwick, innit. Click to subscribe"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Airport radar should be able to show this.

    Airport radar should be able to show this.

    www.Flightradar24.com has some interesting images around LGW at the moment.

    1. Sam Haine

      Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

      What are LEADER, ROVER and WORKS?

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

        What are LEADER, ROVER and WORKS

        They are ground vehicles with ADS-B transponders.

        1. Sam Haine

          Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

          They are ground vehicles with ADS-B transponders.

          Thanks.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

      FlightRadar24 doesn't use radar, sorry.

      It relies on ADS-B information, or multilateration using FlightRadar24 receivers, both of which techniques require the target to be actively transmitting a recognisable signal. It is unlikely that a drone would have that sort of transmitter fitted.

    3. James Hughes 1

      Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

      That site is great - fun to watch the ground vehicles rushing around all over the place - can even see where they have been already!

      1. tim 13

        Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

        The ones driving sideways are the best

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Airport radar should be able to show this.

      Nope, does not have the resolution and it can pick up f*ck all at low altitude. It relies 100% on transponders at that point.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If we don't have the technology readily available, police or armed forces, to bring down a couple of drones then it's rather scary!

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      I suspect the problem is being able to do this in a way that doesn't involve large quantities of high speed shrapnel or 5Kg of drone landing in a built up area.

      I'm a layman but a quicker answer may be to have a qualified drone pilot/s that can fly a large drone to knock the other one out the sky over a safe area. Have some of these guys on call.

      A technological answer is likely a while away. Drone V Drone you could do tomorrow and a human could chose to leave the drone or hit it depending on the location.

      1. Mr Sceptical
        Mushroom

        Call a farmer!

        Who ever suggested using standard Police firearms just needs to call a farmer or any professional clay pigeon shooter.

        Why isn't it blindingly obvious you just need a couple of barrels of birdshot to take one of these down - and you don't need to worry about collateral damage across the distance of an airfield.

        Only trick is getting close enough to the target in the first place.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Call a farmer!

          "Only trick is getting close enough to the target in the first place."

          That , and getting it to even appear - the drone(s) have so far only appeared briefly every hour to ensure grounding continues

          1. Skier Boris

            Re: Call a farmer!

            Surely it can be tracked then?

            Alternatively - where's John McClane, it's Christmas at an airport FFS

      2. adam 40 Bronze badge

        I find it ironic

        That the police a whinging about stray bullets as their excuse for not shooting down the drone.

        Yet they don't mind loosing off several shots at an unarmed electrician on the London Underground in a public tube train.

        Just sayin.

        Also this probably isn't the work of a foreign state or terrorist organisation, but THE GREEN PARTY just trying to cut down on carbon emissions. Good job!

        Third irony is the drone on the Tannoy....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I find it ironic

          "Yet they don't mind loosing off several shots at an unarmed electrician on the London Underground in a public tube train."

          In an enclosed building space you have a good backstop, and a line of sight over the entire primary trajectory.

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      We do have the technology. At ranges below 100 metres, a decent goose gun will do the trick.

      A drone flying higher can be severely affected by flying a helicopter over it; the downwash will likely down the drone. Of course, you first have to find your drone, then clear all air traffic, then launch the helicopter and by then the drone operator will have achieved what they wanted to achieve (total air traffic shutdown) and likely scarpered.

  23. spold Bronze badge

    Sort of distracts from other news items that people wish weren't in the headlines. Perhaps look at recent political party purchases and see who has been buying drones...

    I purchased a Huawei drone from Shenzhen recently but it was impounded enroute when it flew into Canada.

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      On the plus side, if it ever shows up, you know it's a good 'un if it'll fly as far as Canada on a single charge.

  24. Peter Christy

    As a responsible model aircraft flyer, I'm seriously p***ed off by all the idiots flying drones without any idea of what they are doing. As many of us pointed out at the time new legislation was being proposed, new laws are pointless unless they can be enforced. The Civil Aviation Authority are responsible for draughting the rules, but enforcement is down to the already over-stretched police.

    However, as others have pointed out, there are aspects of this story that simply don't add up. First there is the length of time of the sightings. This would indicate either very many drones, or very many re-charges close to the airport. Secondly, the weather last night was foul, with heavy rain, strong winds and even stronger gusts. I doubt if any "consumer" drone could operate in such conditions, and its highly unlikely that any "commercial" grade drones could either. Has someone nicked some military drones? How reliable are eye-witness accounts under such conditions? Perhaps most importantly, were these drones spotted on radar - either air or ground - which should surely have been able to detect them?

    Lots of unanswered questions here. I shall be following this with interest!

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Could they not just set down in a hedge and go on standby for a while, then pop up later? it'd be fairly hard to spot, and it wouldn't use up the battery if it's not flying the whole time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and it wouldn't use up the battery if it's not flying the whole time

        This method might extend battery life by 50-100%. There is still quite a load on the battery even when landed as the flight controller and video transmission system takes a fair bit of juice.

        1. adam 40 Bronze badge

          Only a ftikkin idiod would enable the video

          ... it would be recording the perps on launch...

    2. JoshOvki

      I am wondering if there is a drone (or a few) that is landing when the airport is closed, but has a pilot using a radio to listen to air traffic control. As soon as they are going to reopen the airport they send a drone up and make is visible. A few drones and you could cause mayhem for hours, and not have to worry about battery issues.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Little green men

    Why has no-one mentioned UFO's yet?

    1. d_u_k_k@hotmail.com

      Re: Little green men

      We did ...the posts keep being deleted …..haha

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clearly ...

    A dry run for something more sinister.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clearly ...

      Yes...

      The old "keeping a low profile before by appearing on mainstream media for 24+ hours and delaying thousands of people" approach that ensures a massive reaction from the authorities that either results in you being caught prior to the main event or results in counter measures being in-place for next time?

      Or were you referring to your post?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Possible detection

    Detection systems do exist although they are probably quite expensive:

    https://www.l3t.com/video/drone-guardian

    https://www.rohde-schwarz.com/uk/product/ardronis-i-productstartpage_63493-334548.html (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfe1qRtXPc4)

    https://drohnenabwehr.de/en/home/

    Might be time for the airports to start serious evaluations of some of them.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Possible detection

      could you save me trawling through your dodgy looking unknown links and just briefly summarise in theory how any system could detect / stop a un-geofenced pre programmed drone?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Possible detection

        Detection can be by RF analysis and direction finders if the drone is under remote control, or if flying autonomously options exist to use radar with visual or acoustic verification.

        The easiest countermeasure for a drone that is being remotely controlled would be jamming, which doesn't need the drone to be geofenced to be effective. For a device that is operating autonomously more destructive options exist including the HPEM source from Diehl

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Possible detection

          "including the HPEM source from Diehl"

          Killing it with EMP pulses? on an airfield?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Possible detection

            "Killing it with EMP pulses? on an airfield?"

            With a directional source and controlled power, possibly.

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Possible detection

          For a device that is operating autonomously more destructive options exist including the HPEM source from Diehl

          Yey! Technofetishism!

          So.. alternatives could be a police attack drone fitted with a taser. If the <zap> didn't kill it, getting it tangled in the wires might down it. Or the drone (or helicopter) could have other non/less lethal and commercially available choices. Like beanbag rounds, net launchers, sticky-web launchers. Or for a cheap option, that trip-wire detecting favorite, cans of silly string to gum up the target.

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: Possible detection

      "Detection systems do exist although they are probably quite expensive"

      In comparison to the costs of disrupting an airport the size of Gatwick for a day they are likely quite reasonable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Possible detection

        "Detection systems do exist although they are probably quite expensive"

        In comparison to the costs of disrupting an airport the size of Gatwick for a day they are likely quite reasonable.

        -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        And probably almost totally ineffective against a properly configured drone.

        Forcing someone to swap radios and tweak programming, or build a drone for .000001 of what you are spending is not likely a winning strategy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: Possible detection

      So which manufacturer/supplier/servicer of prospective anti-drone technology do you represent?

  28. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Dutch solution - eagles!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-35750816/eagles-trained-to-take-down-drones

    Added advantage with eagles is they also keep seagulls and other potential air-strikes away. It is kind of ironic that the inbred British elite poison avian raptors to protect their grouse for shooting season, and yet are never prosecuted by the police.

    A trained golden or sea eagle could not only take down a drone, it could rip the face off any drone operator.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Dutch solution - eagles!

      There's still austerity here, but we can call on thousands of cheaper highly fed trained pigeons to sh1t on the drones and neutralise them that way.

      If it can work for Aer Lingus a drone should be no problem.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Dutch solution - eagles!

        I was at my first Trident Ploughshares camp meeting, and an Irish peace activist asked them for advice on how to shut down Shannon airport that was being used for US military overflights to Afghanistan. I replied, the first and only time I spoke at their meeting.

        "Don't! Don't go onto the runway, don't interfere with air traffic control, you will be threatening the lives of innocents if you do. The one thing you could do to close down that airport is to surround it with a lot of dead fish. Airports can't operate when they are swarmed by seagulls".

        Previously when my employer was contracted to BAA and the CAA I was on a flight that made an emergency landing due to a seagull strike in the engine. It smelled fishy, and I mean that literally. Everyone except me panicked. I was the only passenger who got on the next flight, the same aircraft.

        One thing I learned at the CAA was how common near air tragedies are. I was repeatedly asked, "Were you just on flight so-and-so?", and then I'd need to lie, "No" to avoid being told how close to death I'd been.

  29. wayne 8

    Russians

    Russians.

  30. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Wrong type of Helicopter

    Instead of a Police Helicopter, they should call in the Army for a few Apache gunships to patrol the perimeter. Any drone and or drone operator that gets spotted in the vicinity gets blasted with the cannon.

  31. Stryker007

    drone takes drone

    This could of been solved in 5 mins flat... take a £100 FPV drone and one half decent FPV pilot and ram the damn thing

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: drone takes drone

      as i keep saying , all of these gung ho solutions involve knowing where the drone is. They dont. what they are combatting is the *threat* of further drone activity - NOT an actual drone buzzing around the airfield.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: drone takes drone

      take a £100 FPV drone and one half decent FPV pilot and ram the damn thing

      There's certainly a case for ramming the thing out the air if you're not going to shoot it. Using another drone is probably not ideal as they're all pretty slow, and a "drone pursuit" could be as fast and effective as a zimmer frame race. But a conventional R/C "model" aircraft with a forward looking camera should have the capability, speed and substance to wack any non-military drone out of the air, with a starting price tag of about £300 for something halfway decent.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: drone takes drone

      half decent FPV pilot

      patch the comms through to the Army's Watchkeeper drone pilots who probably have time on their hands

  32. MrKrotos

    RF Jammer?

    Why dont they use a jammer?

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: RF Jammer?

      Collateral damage, as it were. Airports use a lot of radio across a lot of spectra, so it's hard to jam all possible drone frequencies and still be able to fly planes.

      Plus there's a chance it's pre-programmed and only needs GPS, and you really can't fly dozens of airliners if GPS is being jammed.

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

        Re: RF Jammer?

        Well, no, you can't but you can spoof GPS and confuse the drones, maybe even force them to crash.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RF Jammer?

          Um, planes depend a lot on GPS too you know...

          1. Pete4000uk

            Re: RF Jammer?

            It would only need to be in the local area while the planes are on the ground.

            Besides, if a plane needs GPS on final approach you have bigger problems than a drone...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: RF Jammer?

              "Besides, if a plane needs GPS on final approach you have bigger problems than a drone..."

              The hardest thing a pilot does, normally, is land a plane. Automated systems are much better and safer than human pilots, and a lot of commercial pilots seldom actually fly the landings - that's what autopilots do.

              Don't mess with the safety support systems.

  33. Totally not a Cylon
    Boffin

    EMP gun?

    As there's nothing flying over Gatwick, just get some inventor/boffin with an EMP gun to deal with 'em.

    1. Crisp Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: EMP gun?

      There are two problems with this :

      1. We don't have any EMP guns.

      2. We don't have any EMP guns.

      Now I realise that technically speaking that's only one flaw but I thought that it was such a big one that it was worth mentioning twice.

      1. hmv Bronze badge

        Re: EMP gun?

        It might be stretching the definition of "gun" slightly, but in fact we do. Mind you, lobbing a nuke at Gatwick might well be considered overkill.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: EMP gun?

          Don't forget it is *only* Gatwick ..... so your solution might work !!!!! ;)

        2. OssianScotland Bronze badge

          Re: EMP gun?

          "Mind you, lobbing a nuke at Gatwick might well be considered overkill."

          Other places, yes, but Gatwick?

        3. RancidRodent

          Re: EMP gun?

          Taking out the whole of London with such an "EMP" wouldn't be a bad idea - make the epicentre somewhere near parliament.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: EMP gun?

            Taking out the whole of London with such an "EMP" wouldn't be a bad idea - make the epicentre somewhere near parliament.

            Bugger the EMP, drones are the least of our problems....if you had access to some form of THX1138 style brain-shunt to aim at Westminster that would be far more effective at restoring some form of peace and quiet.

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: EMP gun?

        @Crisp

        Lacking further available upvotes, I'm forced to express my amusement with a comment. Well done, sir.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EMP gun?

        There are two problems with this :

        1. We don't have any EMP guns.

        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        And if we did, which breaks first - the high sensitivity systems on some random number of aircraft with different equipment, or a moderately hardened drone? And how can you be sure, until an aircraft fails?

        But... conductive paint can produce a very easy Faraday cage.

  34. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    When Tony Blair called out troops to surround Heathrow on the day of a commons vote on his crusade against Iraq, he claimed that it was because a domestic terrorist group had acquired a surface to air missile. Yeah, right. Maybe the fantasy has turned up again near Gatwick, though it's hard to see how it would encourage MPs to vote for Mrs May's Brexit deal. Or maybe it really did and does exist, and Tony Blair was telling the truth about something to do with Iraq, which seems very unlikely.

  35. Wellyboot Silver badge

    BBC 1pm news update

    Drone seen again in last hour & photos of police with shotguns. It appears the drone is popping up when the police chopper is away.

    This might be a good time to put one of our large military drones with its really good cameras high over Gatwick.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: BBC 1pm news update

      "This might be a good time to put one of our large military drones with its really good cameras high over Gatwick.”

      They're scared of using buckshot.

      Think of the damage that a Watchkeeper will cause when it inevitably crashes !!

  36. steviebuk Silver badge

    I was thinking a GPS issue

    But now having read there were a few of them. I originally thought maybe the "come home" GPS part of it got confused and flew near the airport. But looks less likely. Sad issue is, it probably is an attempt to get a clear layout of the place for a possible attack. The bad thought now is, clearly they don't even need to strap a bomb to them. Just flying them over the airport is enough to cause everything to come to a halt.

    Lets hope it's just a tit being a tit and nothing more.

  37. myhandler

    So what's the deal on surveillance satellites?

    I don't know how many there are over Southern UK and if one can study Gatwick, but I believe they have enough resolution to see a big drone.

    If so the military in charge can tell plod where to find the perp.

    Anyone care to explain why that's fantasy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wot? The military giving useful information to a civilian?

      Don't be silly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I don't know how many there are over Southern UK and if one can study Gatwick, but I believe they have enough resolution to see a big drone."

      Regardless of coverage, I'd imagine it would be pretty difficult to be certain that a blob on a static satellite image was a drone.

      Any image gathering satellites will almost certainly be on a polar orbit (to allow coverage of the whole of the earth's surface) and will also have a fairly short orbital period. If you can identify a drone from the image, it won't be possible to repeatedly take images of the same area of ground from the same angle over a short period of time to be able to isolate where the drone is, or where it is going.

      By the time a drone is big enough to identify in satellite images, you're up to a meter or so between the rotors and it should be pretty easy to spot with the naked eye.

      1. myhandler

        Yeah well obvs I meant geostationary.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Yeah well obvs I meant geostationary

          Geostationary orbits are about 36000 kilometres. That would be some lens.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        There are some interesting thick heavy cloudtops over Gatwick right now, they will be interesting.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jayda Fransen was arrested there yesterday, coincidence I'm sure but...

    If this is some kind of protest then whoever is behind it has absolutely screwed the pooch for their 'cause'.

    Or, just maybe, it's a dry run for No-Deal Brexit

  39. Jonathan Ellis

    Dump Question?

    Why don't the police use one of their drones and fly it into the "hostile" drone? If Drones can cause problems with planes, surely a drone can cause a problem with another drone? Even if it's a £10K of damage to the police's drone then that's nothing in comparision to the problems at gatwick...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dump Question?

      So far there has been absolutely no evidence provided that these "drones" even exist.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dump Question?

      "Why don't the police use one of their drones and fly it into the "hostile" drone?"

      Because it won't work.

      1. Endurance, speed, detection, maneuverability of 'police drone' likely all inadequate. To find, reach, or be around the random drone.

      2. If you could do that, no one would bother with radar guided air defence missiles. Hitting a moving target is very hard... even getting close enough for a largish proximity warhead to do the trick, with radar, infrared homing, etc, is hard.

  40. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Unhappy

    Well this will give Theresa May another excuse to delay the Brexit vote - emergency legislation to ban drones!

  41. Alister Silver badge

    I wish I could draw

    This is a cartoonists dream - images of British coppers running round the airport perimeter with butterfly nets and shotguns.

    Where's Giles when you need him...

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: I wish I could draw

      Where's Giles when you need him...

      Watch it; you are showing your age... as is everyone else who gave you an upvote. And I am one of them...

  42. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Endurance

    I've not followed this closely from the start, so this might not be relevant. Even relatively short flying duration drones could cause problems if they are flying for a short period, then landing, waiting a while then taking off again. So you don't need unbelievably high capacity batteries to deliver long duration disruption. Popping up for a few minutes at approximately hourly intervals with apparently random variations would do it. Obviously, if you can track the drone, you can disable it while it is landed in one of its quiescent periods, so long as the landing point is relatively easily accessible. If the drone uses a series of landing points planned in advance*, it could be difficult to catch up with. With sufficiently good planning, it would never return to a previously used landing point before the batteries run out of juice.

    Drones whose single task is to follow another drone and say where it is could be a likely development.

    *e.g. the flat roofs of buildings in industrial parks. Bonus points if crawlboards are needed for human access; flat roofs of domestic house extensions; and I'm sure readers can think of other places.

  43. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    It has to be said!

    Total chaos at British airport even *before* Brexit

  44. colinb

    no joking matter

    I doubt this is terrorism of the global type e.g. ISIS, if they had really wanted to do this i suspect they would have taken out Heathrow and Birmingham as well.

    With 3 airports down the sheer stacking delays could have caused emergency landings due to lack of fuel.

    Yes they carry extra but as the Ryanair Spanish incident has shown some cut it as low as they can get away with.

    As a frequent Gatwick flyer my sympathies to those affected.

    Oh and Gatwick, buy some frikin Megaphones for god's sake. Talking to the first 5 people in a queue is brain dead.

    1. Vincent Ballard
      Coat

      Re: no joking matter

      Ryanair Spanish incidents, plural. They managed three emergency landings in Valencia due to lack of fuel in a single afternoon on the 26th July 2012. I think the rules have been changed since then.

  45. Smooth Newt
    WTF?

    Don't they do risk management any more?

    Don't airports, the Department for Transport, National Security Council etc, employ people whose job is to identify risks and develop plans for dealing with them?

    Since drones have been interacting with aircraft for several years now, this is hardly unexpected if your job is to think about bad things that could happen at airports. Perhaps all these people started their Christmas holidays about a decade ago. If not, then maybe they should all collectively put in for a transfer to the Department for Exiting the EU, where they will feel right at home.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Don't they do risk management any more?

      There probably is a risk assesment in place but for just one isolated incident. This seems to be a whole lot worse.

      It will also be putting ideas into people who will be getting Drones for Crimble.

      We've had drones hovering outside of people's bedroom windows where I live. One was downed with a BB gun. The owner never bothered to claim the wreckage. It was burnt on a local bonfire last November (the battery was removed first).

      Surprisingly, there have been no more incidents.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Don't they do risk management any more?

      Of course they do.

      But short-term risk management is aimed at not getting anybody important killed. It therefore consists of stopping flights and getting some people to hunt down the perps. Longer term risk management related to keeping people happy and the economic viability of the airport hasn't come into action yet.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't they do risk management any more?

      "Don't airports, the Department for Transport, National Security Council etc, employ people whose job is to identify risks and develop plans for dealing with them?"

      In the days when I used to go to Risk Management meetings (safety critical control systems), the only risks that were allowed to be discussed were the ones that the management wanted to be discussed, ie trivial ones.

      Ethics? Somewhere a long way from here, maybe.

  46. Mongrel

    If I was a drone hobbyist I would be seriously worried about [the] kneejerk reaction.

    So someone has been buzzing around the restricted zone and effectively closed the airport for nigh on 24 hours. On the presumption that this isn't a mis-identified plastic bag or something why would it be a knee-jerk reaction?

    If someone can close down an airport this easily and cheaply why shouldn't we have some tighter regulations?

    (not a hobbyist)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because regulations can't and won't do anything to stop determined idiots, criminals or worse from physically doing this stuff. But they will fuck up sensible, innocent people's fun of flying a simple and sometimes useful recreational toy where nobody is at risk of any harm.

      I build and fly muti-rotors, it's very fun. Perfect fusion of computing, electronics, aviation, real-life video games - everything a geek would enjoy. It's literally impossible to stop this from happening if someone is intent on carrying out crime of some sort, the technology costs peanuts and the software is open sourced.

      Plenty possible to be *seen* to be doing something though by taking everyone else's harmless toys away.

      I fear any silly uninformed knee-jerk legislative reactions only have one ultimate logical future conclusion: a future where nobody is allowed to code, fix or build anything whatsoever without a license, and a future where even people who know how to code are potential threats to the state. That future terrifies the shit out of me and any meaningless ineffectual legislation is another step towards that future. We're sleepwalking into enough political, economic and civil rights disasters as it is that the average man on the street is at best blind to or at worst openly welcomes.

      And yet *still* this stuff will be possible to build if somebody really wants to.

      Airports need to invest in solutions right now to mitigate these risks. Drones that fire nets spring to mind, technology to trace and triangulate likely RF sources and serious jail time if the perps are caught.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So someone has been buzzing around the restricted zone and effectively closed the airport for nigh on 24 hours. On the presumption that this isn't a mis-identified plastic bag or something why would it be a knee-jerk reaction?

      If someone can close down an airport this easily and cheaply why shouldn't we have some tighter regulations?

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Because if someone wants to shut down an airport regulations won't stop them.

      At most. banning drones would force them to build drones that are harder to detect and stop than off the shelf commercial gear.... and much better at getting really really close to an aircraft.

      Do you really want to do that?

    3. nijam

      > If someone can close down an airport this easily and cheaply why shouldn't we have some tighter regulations?

      Because *if* these are real drones (rather than yet more BALPA fantasy drones) the operators are already breaking the existing regulations ... and doing so with impunity, since no-one seems to have a clue how to stop them, let alone catch them.

  47. MSD

    Rather than shooting down, dropping nets on I wonder if RF jamming is possible?

  48. RobThBay

    Tinsel might do the job or a net

    Why can't they drop confetti-like stuff into the path of these drones and let it get snagged up in their propellers? Or suspend a net beneath a police helicopter and try to snare the drones?

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Tinsel might do the job or a net

      Tinsel, or rather long strips of kitchen foil, is a great way to shut down an electricity sub-station. Not a great way to take down a drone.

      Over a decade ago police started using drones to buzz open air activist meetings and there was a lot of discussion on how to bring them down, similar to the comments here. Lots of suggestions of shooting at them, which I had to point out was dangerous - what goes up comes down.

      Helium party balloons used as barrage balloons - with tennis nets strung between them. Helium is expensive.

      My solution was our own drone with a signal jammer that blocked all but our modified signal.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Tinsel might do the job or a net

      I'm imagining what the pilot of a helicopter would have to say about suspending a rotor-jamming net underneath their aircraft.

      1. Timbo

        Re: Tinsel might do the job or a net

        "I'm imagining what the pilot of a helicopter would have to say about suspending a rotor-jamming net underneath their aircraft."

        But the downdraft of the police choppers own blades would keep any suspended net under the chopper.

        You could always weight the net down and also use metal rods around the perimeter of the net to keep it's shape.

        Help, you could even get the SAS in, with their men armed with submachine guns, suspended off ropes under the chopper - have you not seen "Who Dares Wins" ??

  49. RobThBay

    Jamming GPS would help

    Blocking GPS signals would stop the drones automatic flight assist functions from working. Making them harder to control and maybe help the police find the idiots flying them.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds suspiciously like fake news

    LGW totally shutdown for 24 hours due to drones which nobody has seen???

    I can smell the bullshit from here!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds suspiciously like fake news

      Your faith in the British transport system is reassuring but entirely misplaced.

      Between trains (leaves on the line, wheels damaged by leaves on the line, too hot, too cold, too wet, wrong type of snow etc), airports (pilot strikes, planes stranded in the wrong country due to weather, damaged fuel pipelines, Ryanair not bothering to show up) and many more issues.

      The British traveler now spends an average of three days travelling in each direction to reach their destination with one potential benefit of Brexit being an excuse to just stay at home and have a cup of tea instead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds suspiciously like fake news

        "wheels damaged by leaves on the line"

        ????

        How?

        Now I'm really curious.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sounds suspiciously like fake news

          "wheels damaged by leaves on the line"

          Try this:

          Damp leaves on the lines get squashed by train wheels and turn into a slippery goo.

          Trains running on lines covered in slippery goo have even less adhesion than usual.

          When brakes are applied on moving trains in the presence of slippery goo, wheels have a high probability of locking up.

          A severe case of wheel lockup, if repeated enough, can lead to the creation of flat bits on the wheel circumference. Eventually if the flat bits are severe enough the wheels will need to be repaired.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_rail#Effects

          So, the "wheel damage" bit isn't fake news; there's actual evidence, observed by many people.

          Gitwick being closed for 2/3 days because of an alleged drone, that no one except representatives of the "authorities" has actually seen? That's a bit more like fake news.

  51. nil0
    Black Helicopters

    Do you actually need a drone to cause this sort of chaos?

    So far I've seen one photo of the drone - just a white dot in the sky, could be anything. You would have thought photos and mobile footage would be all over the interwebs by now.

    So the thought occurs - all of this is in response to "reports of drones". Where did those reports come from? Far easier to muck around with a radio using airport frequencies than actually fly a drone, perhaps?

    1. nil0

      Re: Do you actually need a drone to cause this sort of chaos?

      And I'm also now fighting the urge to re-watch Die Hard 2.

      1. I am David Jones
        Thumb Up

        Re: Do you actually need a drone to cause this sort of chaos?

        Don’t fight the urge, it’s Christmas after all.

        Just make sure you watch nr 1 first :)

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loving the BBC article - poor little tarquin didnt get to lapland and is balling his eyes out in the first class lounge.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      The media coverage is hysterical. Obviously filling a hole in their holiday headlines.

      On our way from Stockholm,

      It started to snow,

      And you said it was like Brexit,

      But you were wrong,

      It wasn't like Brexit at all.

      By the time we got to Oslo,

      The snow was gone,

      And we got lost,

      The beds were small,

      But we felt so young.

      It was just like Brexit,

      It was just like Brexit,

      It was just like Brexit

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IippcraBPKA

  53. Palpy

    Some uninformed guesses:

    No, not Russians or Chinese. Or aliens. Or a dark government conspiracy, nor Greenpeace-style activists, nor anti-drone false-flag operation. Not terrorism.

    The airport shutdown is not accomplishing any clear strategic goal, it seems to me. It's harassment.

    IMHO and uninformed guess: it sounds to me more akin to arson or vandalism. The motive may be power-tripping (look how smart and powerful I am!) or perhaps disgruntled-employee revenge.

    Quite nasty wake-up on the topic, though, and very likely to encourage copy-cat acts.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whodunnit

    "what appears to be a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights"

    Personally I'm glancing in the direction of the anti-climate-change crowd, who I think I heard have been escalating protests recently - fossil fuel emissions is one of their big targets.

  55. JimC Silver badge

    Airports are very large places

    Something that seems to have escaped a lot of commentators. Tracking these things down, let alone getting within shotgun range or hitting them with another drone seems like a significantly challenging task to me.

    My guess is on the more fascist end of the climate change protest scene, although of course simple vandalism is always possible too.

    I do like the statement that its not terrorism related. I mean, how do they know?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Airports are very large places

      "I do like the statement that its not terrorism related. I mean, how do they know?"

      Probably because actual terrorism related incidents are usually "claimed" by one or more groups. The fact this hasn't, yet, means they've all been caught wrong-footed and none of them had any pre-canned statements to make their claims sound plausibly real.

    2. Criggie

      Re: Airports are very large places

      Sounds like a perfect excuse to hoon up and down the runways/taxiways on fast motorbikes with your shot/salt gun in a horse-style holster.

      Yee Haw! *spurs jingling*

  56. Anonymous Coward
  57. jms222

    Bullshit

    Thousands of people at the airport with cameras. Has anybody seen them ?

    How come one has never landed to swap or recharge and been followed ?

    Will we find out that the real problem was an embarrassing baggage handling bug or nasty substance leak ? Of course they can support their story by actually flying drones.

  58. tip pc Bronze badge

    Why are they doing this?

    Is it s remainer twat trying to make a point about Brexit?

    Or is it someone pi$$ed at easyJet and has decided to take their revenge. (Gatwick North terminal is nearly all easyJet flights with a smattering of alternatives. )

    I’d be properly angry at the drone operators if they ruined my plans I’d worked and saved all year to have.

    This is a team of determined individuals doing this (apparently 2 drones spotted simultaneously over the airport) as the drones are flying for long durations in all weathers at great distance from their controllers they won’t be cheap commercial off the shelf stuff that you can buy of amazon.

    There is a good possibility that these are state sponsored, given the few details about their capabilities. Hopefully the perpetrators are just trying and succeeding in scaring us, I’m a nervous flyer mostly out of Gatwick and this won’t help in my 2019 travel plans.

  59. Ramis101
    Mushroom

    Where are the apache's based in UK?.....Wattisham in Suffolk... so miles away then

    One Question, Where the Fuck is the Military?

    Scramble some shit, seek this fucker out & then send in ground forces to eliminate.

    Job Done..... or it would be if we didn't pussy fuck around in this country

  60. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Drone encounters of the Third Kind

    Did these drones whose operators are being sought radio/radar-installation busting electromagetic emissions and lots of extreme battery pack powered LEDs hanging off them?

  61. Milton Silver badge

    What's wrong with .22LR?

    Sorry, don't have time to read all comments so I imagine lots of others have the same thought. It's true that firing heavy-calibre rifle rounds at shallow angles can be lethal to people far away (ask folks near Bisley before the butts were increased in height) but you don't need a .50 cal or even 7.62 mm to clobber a flimsy drone. I'd have thought that 5.65mm, or even slower .22LR, fired at any angle above about 35°, would come back to earth at terminal velocity, with all muzzle velocity eaten by air resistance. It might crack a window but you'd have to be extremely unlucky to sustain a wound. I'd guess (and it is a guess) that the chances of a high-angle small-calibre round missing its target and hurting someone are extremely small: people are not crammed cheek to cheek around Gatwick. A cracked window in Horley is about as bad as you'll get. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if a stats analysis would show more risk from a falling drone than from the few rounds needed to cripple it ...

    (And what happened to a focussed EMP weapon when you need it? There was an idiot idea floating a few years back to equip police pursuit vehicles with them, to stop fleeing cars. Now at last there is a slightly less stupid use-case ...?)

  62. HKmk23

    Well it has managed to

    Put CorBlimeys lying and getting caught off the front page......so how about Plod visiting Labour party HQ to see if they are recharging drone batteries?

  63. Reaver

    Black Helicopters?

  64. Alan Brown Silver badge

    1: All these "drone sightings" and no photos or videos of said drones - and no sightings on airport landing radar (a drone as large as has been claimed WILL tickle radar systems on aircraft and the approach radar)

    2: The increase in reported drone sightings around Gatwick/Heathrow is directly proportional to the DECREASE in reported bird sightings

    3: Aircraft in airport controlled airspace are limited to around 220knots maximum and are going even slower on finals (140-180 knots)

    4: Said aircraft may have "soft spots" but a drone strike on a wing leading edge or similar won't significantly affect airflow compared to the airbrakes, flaps and landing gear already deployed nor will an impact have sufficient kinetic energy to damage hydraulic lines. A plane may land damaged but it WILL land. A drone going through the engine will probably cause less problems than a bird (feathers through the core are the usual cause of compressor stalls and spectacular flame throwing), etc. Going through the engine at takeoff is no different to a single birdstrike at takeoff (and again, less likely to cause a compressor stall)

    5: If you're going to shoot one down, shotgun pellets have greater spread (better chance of hitting, which is why air-to-air missiles explode into fragments in front of the target rather than trying to directly impact it) and in any case a riot net would work better (there are plenty of these kinds of things around, some are large enough to envelop 100 foot tall trees full of monkeys, so an actual honest-to-goodness drone would be easy meat.)

    6: If you're flying, concentrating on finals and see something whizz past out the corner of your eye as you go past it at 150-200mph, it could be anything. The reason they get identified as birds, drones or plastic bags is mostly "priming" (meaning you're told what to expect to see, so that's what you see - and the plastic bag was a "dronestrike" at heathrow.) Try this sometime. We used to practice hazard observation vs model aircraft flying light aircraft at one airstrip I flew out of in the 1990s (rc fliers and air traffic coordinating). It's amazingly hard to see _anything_ small and light coloured when you're on your way in - and the only time I hit a bird I got a brief glimpse of evading "mallard duck" (as in about the same as a single frame of film) directly in front of the prop at about the same time as hearing the "thump" as one of its friends bounced off the wing - that was only at 70knots.

    7. Large aircraft have significant wake turbulence, especially with their flaps down (Mr Bornelli's theorum is only a small part of keeping in the sky) and most drones are (for the purposes of comparison with aircraft speeds) stationary. That wake turbulence spreads outwards/downwards and is quite disruptive. Any drone attempting to fly up to a busy airport approach path is going to be knocked out of the sky long before it gets there (the only way it can do it is to fly _above_ the approach path and then descend into it, which is attention-getting and radar-noticeable)

    8: Finally: there are plenty of portable lidar systems (missile defence) which are more than capable of detecting drones within seconds (They're designed to detect MANPADS) and the UK military has a number of sets of those, courtesy of extended experience in the middle east. They could be onsite and working in 2 hours. The fact that no drones have been identified is a pretty good indication there weren't any to be identified.

    I'd say these are "stealth" drones - these are the kind that I've watched launching themselves out of creeks on the south side of Heathrow, lurching up to about 200 feet, then turning north to go directly over the middle of the airfield towards Northwood - the kind of drone that has 8 foot wingspans, long legs (with knobbly knees) and lots of feathers.

    Hint: Look up "Moral Panic" sometime.

    1. LochNessMonster

      @Alan Brown

      "A plane may land damaged but it WILL land. A drone going through the engine will probably cause less problems than a bird"

      The issue here is with the word "probably". You and I are sitting at home, glass in hand, browsing the interwebs, Would you feel as confident if your family were sat in a 767 on finals with a drone directly in the glide path? It's also not just about approach, but departure.... aircraft can't takeoff if there's a risk of something popping up just as it reaches Vr; bad things happen. As for missile defence systems.... dream on. Unless the Pk is 100% you've got the potential of a f*ckton of collateral damage to cope with.

      Much as I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, I'd also like to point out that 1902hrs GMT tomorrow (21 December) marks the 30th anniversary of PanAm 103 exploding over Lockerbie. with the loss of 270 lives. I don't want to see the same again. This is peoples' lives we're dealing with... show some fcsking humanity ffs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd say these are "stealth" drones - these are the kind that I've watched launching themselves out of creeks on the south side of Heathrow, lurching up to about 200 feet, then turning north to go directly over the middle of the airfield towards Northwood - the kind of drone that has 8 foot wingspans, long legs (with knobbly knees) and lots of feathers.

      -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Maybe.

      Or perhaps this is the newer equivalent of phoning in a bomb threat with no bomb.

      Once two or three people have reported 'drones', you can count on other people reporting lights or dots in the sky as drones.... and now you have a perpetual propaganda machine.

  65. bilston
    Alien

    Wat no fotos

    Strange the media has no photos to show, is this a cover story for somthing else ?

    If this post gets deleted I will worry on the other hand as you can see it ahhhhhhhhhh .

  66. Richard Parkin

    Flying saucers?

    As subject :-)

  67. bpfh Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Find the culprits...

    And have Sussex Police deliver them to the departure lounge for an hour or two before hauling them off to trial. If there is anything left of them...

  68. Nifty

    1 original drone and 10 lasers projecting drone shapes or dron-like LED patterns onto the runway at crucial moments...

  69. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Coat

    It's Probably Just As Well It Wasn't The Airport In Essex.

    Imagine the headlines...

    Air traffic at Stanstead has completely come to a standstill.

    1. really_adf

      Re: It's Probably Just As Well It Wasn't The Airport In Essex.

      Surely just "Standstill at Stansted"

  70. elgarak1

    OK, so there's reliable reports of drones. Airport is shut down for safety, police and expert are called in. the begin to investigate, try to find the operator, and remove the threat.

    Operator of drone notice something is up, and leaves before there's a chance to get caught.

    If you were the person at the top, how long would you wait to re-open the airport? For your POV, there were drones, and there still could be someone out there. The operator is not found yet. If it's really an attack, the drone operator could just lie low until flights resume, and relaunch.

    You would want to be sure that the situation is resolved. That takes time.

    And yes, it shows how easy it is to interrupt infrastructure.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Operation Zenith?

    Does Operation Zenith mean anything to anyone here?

    And/or is it relevant but superinjuncted in an attempt to minimise media coverage?

    Might we be watching a (failed?) demonstration/test of why Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, e.g. drones) are the new Next Big Thing, both as investment opportunities and for aviation law enforcement ?

    "A critical function in any UTM solution is to provide visibility of who is currently in the sky and where. This includes both traditional (manned) air traffic, as well as unmanned traffic. Previous industry demonstrations have fallen short of being able to do this at such a scale because they rely on hardware modules and software which cannot be easily integrated into existing drones and control systems or have demonstrated only a single method of tracking drones which is not sufficient.

    [redacted] is designed to circumvent such limitations by enabling Air Traffic Control, software developers, drone manufacturers and drone pilots to easily integrate the UTM platform into their operations, as is evidenced by the sheer breadth of partners who took part in Operation Zenith."

    [...]

    "On Wednesday 21st November 2018, to an exclusive delegation of over 120 influential people involved in the drone industry, [redacted], NATS, Manchester Airport and our delivery partners collectively and successfully staged “Operation Zenith”: the most comprehensive demonstration of a UTM platform’s ability to unlock the full potential of drones."

    Just askin. Askin here 'cos I'm not brave enough to ask over at PPRUNE.

    "Well done Parker"

    "Thank you Milady."

    "Get me Pendleton, Parker."

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Operation Zenith?

      Have up a upvote for Thunderbirds & Edge Of Darkness (Bob Peck) quotes.

  72. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Coat

    To The Tune Of All Stood Still By Ultravox

    The drones went up (The last one flew).

    The planes all stopped (It can't be true).

    The check-in queues long (What can we do?).

    And departures blocked (It relied on you).

    Risk of turbines jammed up.

    The buildings full up.

    The system choked up.

    What can we do?

    Please remember to feed me,

    My suitcases left behind.

    We stood still.

    We all stood still.

    Still stood still.

    We're standing still.

    Info screen shut down (There's no reply).

    Duty Free’s all full (A pilot cries).

    And the daylight fades (The passengers sigh).

    As the departures stall (The readout lies).

    Risk of turbines jammed up.

    The buildings full up.

    The system choked up.

    What can we do?

    Please remember to feed me,

    My suitcases left behind.

    We stood still.

    We all stood still.

    Still stood still.

    We're standing still.

    The cops hunt failed (They got very cross).

    With the fails & delays (The army got lost).

    Everyone’s pissed (We sound exhaust).

    In Weatherspoons (Of the expensive cost).

    Risk of turbines jammed up.

    The buildings full up.

    The system choked up.

    What can we do?

    Please remember to feed me,

    My suitcases left behind.

    We stood still.

    We all stood still.

    Still stood still.

    We're standing still.

    1. Grunt #1

      Re: To The Tune Of All Stood Still By Ultravox

      Is that you Midge?

      I've got my coat and I'm ready for the flight to Vienna.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why all the fuss?

    Could have sent in my father with his trusty Ithaca.

    (AAA rated skeet shooter)

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confused

    This whole story makes no sense.

    Why are the police apparently focusing on searching for the operator? What makes them think they are even in the UK? If they’re controlling it by radio, surely there is someone the police / military can find to triangulate and / or jam this? If not, this seems like a non starter.

    As far as I can see, following the drones to where they are landing between flights is the obvious first step. The police have at least one helicopter and, given the number of reports, these drones are apparently not trying to be stealthy.

    Secondly, given this has presumably already cost non insignificant amounts of money (and I worry about copycats, given the apparent buffoonery of the response so far) could someone not stump up for one of the many anti drone weapons available? To name a few, I believe Raytheon has a dune buggy with a laser and if we want to keep things in country, the skywall system is developed just down the road.

    Once you’ve put a stop to the drones, maybe then try and figure out who’s responsible?

    As for whether it’s a terrorist act... the only thing terrifying about this is our complete inability to do anything about it. If the UK armed forces honestly can’t sort out a couple of drones flying over an airfield... well, I’m lost for words.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confused

      As I understand the issue at present:

      - it is likely to be multiple drones based on the length of operation, difficulty in locating them or their "base"

      - one or more of the drones was not relying on a RF link to an operator allowing the signal to be triangulated. It is likely to have been pre-programmed and Gatwick has some existing "ability to track RF sources"

      - the operational pattern was designed to make tracking the drones as difficult as possible. i.e. they were only up for a matter of minutes at a time. Enough to keep flights suspended without allowing police to clearly identify the location of a unit. And if there were multiple drones operating independently, even finding one unit would not stop further disruption.

      - I believe that Gatwick have now deployed military radar on-site to allow accurate location identification if this issue re-occurs although it would still result in some disruption.

      Happy for corrections/more information if anyone knows any more...

  75. VikiAi Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Is this part of...

    ...the 'War on X-mass (travel)" I have been hearing about?

  76. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Oh Tinkerbell!

    "Tinkerbell81 opined: "You seriously expect us to believe that 'drone activity' shuts an airport down for nearly 12 hours ........ it was raining hard most of the night! Finding the 'operator' would be a needle in a haystack..."

    You got it, Tinky, they shut it down for a laugh. They were bored and felt they'd be better if they lost thousands and thousands of pounds, and had to deal with idiot passengers like you moaning.

    P.S. Your second sentence justifying the first? It doesn't,

  77. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    Utter fuckwits like this are why we can't have nice things.

    Cue bans and tighter controls on operation.

    1. nijam

      > Utter fuckwits like this are why we can't have nice things.

      > Cue bans and tighter controls on operation.

      Are you talking about Gatwick's management, the police, the media, or something else?

  78. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    If I were plod I'd be all over YouTube waiting for the invetible footage upload.

    1. Chozo

      You would think that in this cell-phone obsessed society there would be some grainy video footage of a drone in flight near the airport taken by a member of the public. Perhaps even some thermal-imaging footage from the Police to lend credence to the story. Maybe it is not drones at all...

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where was swoop the dinobot when you need him?

  80. N2 Silver badge

    Low tech solution

    Fifty grand reward for drone operators found in the area, dead or alive.

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