Gatwick incident prompts MPs call for review of drone use near airports

Henry Smith, MP for Crawley
Henry Smith, MP for Crawley

Crawley’s MP has called for a review of the use of drones around airports after an incident at Gatwick saw flights disrupted on Sunday evening (July 2)..

After reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended twice, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

Following the incident, MP Henry Smith raised the issue of people using unmanned aerial vehicles near UK airports with the security minister in the House of Commons on Monday (July 3).

He said: “I was deeply concerned about the significant disruption caused last Sunday evening to Gatwick operations due to drone incursions over the airport.

“Drones are of important use commercially and can also be used for legitimate recreation, so it’s not about restricting responsible use but rather ensuring our security and safety at airports.

“I’m grateful for the security minister’s attention on the matter after I raised the issue in Parliament.”

His question was: “Yesterday evening, Gatwick Airport had to close its runway on several occasions, leading to the cancellation of quite a few flights, owing to the irresponsible use of a drone.

“Will the minister say whether the Government will consider reviewing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles around airports?”

In response security minister Ben Wallace said: “My honourable friend makes an important point about the dangers that drones can pose to aircraft, but drones are also used illegally to supply drugs to prisons and they are used by terrorists and criminals further afield.

“That is why this Government set up a group chaired by me and the Ministry of Defence about a year ago to look at measures that we can put in place not only to deal with the technological challenge that drones present, but to ensure that we counter drones in a way that fits with the idea of an open society in which law-abiding citizens can continue to use drones for their pleasure or for their work.”

A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said: “Due to reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 6.10pm and 6.19pm and again from 6.36pm to 6.41pm, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

“Operations have resumed and the police continue to investigate.”