A major airport is under siege thanks to a drone pilot who may be acting as an “eco-warrior.” Over 100,000 passengers were stranded after all 760 flights from the airport were canceled on Thursday, and more are expected to be disappointed as the airport tells travelers not to try to fly on Friday either.
London’s Gatwick airport has been plunged into chaos. A drone has been interfering with flights for three days, and a spokesperson for the airport is now telling passengers to avoid the airport “for the foreseeable future,” which includes this Friday.
Gatwick is the second busiest airport in the UK, according to a report by the Daily Mail. On Thursday alone, 760 flights were canceled, leaving many to spend the night in the terminal after area hotels became fully booked.
The flights were canceled due to safety concerns. Local authorities fear the drone could be used to take down an aircraft filled with passengers.
Authorities still don’t know who is behind the drone’s activities. They do not believe it is a hobbyist as the drone would have had to be modified to bypass security.
Instead, experts believe that an “eco-warrior” may be to blame.
The drone’s flights are “highly targeted” and “designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas,” said the airport.
Armed officers, including some with sniper rifles, roamed the airport’s grounds, hoping to have a chance to shoot down the drone on the runway. While the drone has been sighted about 50 times since Wednesday night, the pilot has evaded the authorities.
The airport has been working on “contingency plans,” though it isn’t clear what those entail. However, the incident is being considered an “extraordinary circumstance” by aviation chiefs, so passengers aren’t like to qualify for compensation for the delays.
No person or group has claimed responsibility for the drone. However, environmental groups have targeted UK airports before, including a protest over a proposed expansion at Heathrow.
At this time, authorities do not believe terrorists are responsible.
“There’s no sense of motive,” said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, “there’s no suggestion that this is a terrorist act.”