On July 2nd, 2017, Gatwick Airport in the UK was forced to suspend its runways for a total of 14 minutes because a drone was flown in restricted airspace. This 2-minute visualization released by NATS shows the chaos that ensued.
An approaching aircraft reported a sighting of a drone in the early evening and air traffic controllers took the decision to suspend the runways while the report was being investigated. The risk of a potentially catastrophic collision is very real.
The video tracks the movements of different planes that were trying to land in and pass by Gatwick at the time:
Unconfirmed reports of a drone sighting led to runway suspension for a total of 14 mins. Operations fully resumed and police investigating.
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) July 2, 2017
The video was created with raw data supplied by air traffic monitoring service NATS. It shows holding bays quickly filling, and subsequently overflowing, after a number of aircraft could not land at Gatwick while the runways were shut.
Some aircraft even had to divert because of limited fuel supplies and the uncertainty of when the runways would open again.
After authorities weren’t able to confirm the drone sighting, the runways were re-opened after 9 minutes of closure. Shortly afterward, however, the drone was spotted again and the runways were suspended once more for another 5 minutes.
The effects of these “short” closures were felt into the evening as returning aircraft were late to depart for their next flights.
Responsible drone use is of paramount importance, and the industry now looks to be cracking down on irresponsible pilots. DJI recently released its own drone tracking device called the Aeroscope shortly after the first confirmed drone collision with a passenger jet.
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