Gatwick officials say the attacker had knowledge of airport procedures and may have monitored its communications networks
Police say the drone attack that disrupted flights at Gatwick Airport for 33 hours last December may have been carried out by an insider at the airport.
Sussex Police said the possibility that an insider was involved was “credible”, while Gatwick’s chief operating officer said the attacker appeared to have knowledge of airport procedures.
“It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport,” said Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, who oversaw the facility’s response to the incident.
He said the attacker could apparently see what was happening on the runway, or was eavesdropping on the airport’s radio or internet communications.
Detection and response
The drone used was “specifically selected” as one that could not be seen by the DJI Aeroscope drone-detection equipment Gatwick was testing at the time, Woodroofe told the BBC’s Panorama programme, in his first report since the incident.
Sussex Police said it expects its inquiry to take “some months” to complete.
Woodroofe said he did not believe the airport had overreacted by halting flights whilst the drone repeatedly reappeared.
“There is absolutely nothing that I would do differently when I look back at the incident, because ultimately, my number one priority has to be to maintain the safety of our passengers, and that’s what we did,” he said.
“It was terrible that 140,000 people’s journeys were disrupted – but everyone was safe.”
Gatwick said it spent £5 million on drone detection equipment following the incident, which Panorama said included two sets of Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) gear, one of the systems deployed by the military during the attack.
Woodroofe said he was confident the airport was now better prepared to fend off drone incursions.
“We would know the drone was arriving on site and we’d know where that drone had come from, where it was going to and we’d have a much better chance of catching the perpetrator,” he said.