As the airport in southern England reopened to flights this morning after a 36-hour runway closure, key figures expressed alarm at the ease with which the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was able to cause disruption.
DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, said the incident highlighted the need for new systems to protect against rogue devices, while drone expert Chris Anderson said drone counter-measures “don’t work”.
Drone regulation lagging behind technology
Drone specialist and architect Liam Young told Dezeen the incident highlighted how legislation had failed to keep up with drone technology.
“It’s a perfect example of how technology evolves at a much faster pace than culture does,” said Young, whose work with UAVs includes the City of Drones project and the feature film In the Robot Skies, which was shot entirely using drones
The Chinese company revealed that it had offered assistance to the British authorities in relation to the Gatwick incident.
It said: “While DJI has no independent confirmation of what has occurred or what type of drone may be involved, the company is prepared to offer technical assistance and comply with appropriate requests from law enforcement and aviation regulation officials.”
Cause of Gatwick incident still unknown
The cause of the Gatwick incident remains unknown, as does the reason why the airport was reopened for flights despite the lack of any arrests.
Observers pointed out that a single drone would need to be recharged multiple times to cause disruption over such an extended period, since battery life of commercially available drones averages between 20 and 30 minutes. Others noted the absence of details about the type of drone or footage of the device.
Authorities appear to have been hampered in their attempts to deal with the incident by fears that intercepting or shooting the drone could be illegal or have unforeseen consequences. Gatwick Airport’s chief executive Chris Woodroofe admitted that there was little the airport could do to eliminate the threat.