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Gatwick drone mayhem raises serious concerns

The fact that one of the largest airports in Europe can be shut down for hours by the appearance of drones, leading to misery and disruption for tens of thousands of passengers, has to be a matter of serious concern.

All flights in and out of Gatwick airport were halted on Wednesday night and cancellations continued throughout yesterday as the authorities struggled to deal with drones which were sighted at different times near the airfield.

Among the flights affected were those between Gatwick and Belfast and Dublin, with travellers trying to get home for Christmas or heading off on holiday finding their plans thrown into disarray.

While many planes ended up in different airports - and even different countries - for those stuck at Gatwick it was a scene of utter chaos with long queues and people sleeping on the floor.

What was particularly frustrating for passengers was the fact that the airport could not tell them when flights might resume, with the drone making repeated appearances close to the runway.

Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw said police were acting on the basis that this was a 'deliberate act to disrupt the airport'.

A government minister warned that the perpetrators of what she described a an illegal and irresponsible act could face up to five years in jail.

The very fact that it is possible for a drone to be flown so close to a major airport, causing a potential risk to the safety of planes, has raised serious questions.

It is inevitable the authorities will have to look all the available options for preventing drones being misused.

While this mayhem is undoubtedly embarrassing for the British government, the focus must be on stopping the drone operator and getting passengers to their destinations.

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