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Not one but TWO drones behind last years Christmas closure at Gatwick

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A police investigation into illegal drone incursions at Gatwick Airport has concluded that at least two drones were behind the attack.

The incident, during the peak Christmas period, led to the airport being closed for 30 hours, disrupting 1,000 flights and more than 140,000 passengers.

The criminal investigation by Sussex Police, with support from national expertise, has identified, researched and ruled out 96 people ‘of interest’.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Miller, Head of Operations Command, said: “This was a serious and deliberate criminal act designed to endanger airport operations and the safety of the travelling public.

“A drone strike can cause significant damage to an aircraft in flight and it is important to emphasise that public safety was always at the forefront of our response. No aircraft was damaged or passenger injured.

“This was an unprecedented set of circumstances for all agencies involved at a time when the police and the Government were at the early stages of assessing domestic counter drone technology.

“Equipment was quickly installed using both military and private assets to bring it to a conclusion and allow the airport to reopen. Measures now available have strengthened our capability to respond to and investigate a similar incident in the future.”

Gatwick Policing Command works with the airport and airlines to protect public safety and prevent and detect criminal activity. Overall responsibility for airspace safety rests with the airport authority and relevant Government agencies.

The police investigation has centred on 129 separate sightings of drone activity, 109 of these from credible witnesses used to working in a complex airport environment including a pilot, airport workers and airport police.

Through corroborated witness statements, it is established that at least two drones were in operation during this period and the offender, or multiple offenders, had detailed knowledge of the airport.

Witness statements show activity happened in ‘groupings’ across the three days on 12 separate occasions, varying in length from between seven and 45 minutes. On six of these occasions, witnesses clearly saw two drones operating simultaneously.

The incident was not deemed terror-related and there is no evidence to suggest it was either state-sponsored, campaign or interest-group led. No further arrests have been made.

ACC Miller said: “With support from national experts, we have carried out an exhaustive criminal investigation but, without new information coming to light, there are no further realistic lines of enquiry at this time.”

The significant police response required resources from seven UK police forces as well as national expertise in policing, government and the private sector.

The policing operation and subsequent investigation has cost £790,000 and is not expected to increase further, with the bulk of the cost relating to the operational police response. Mutual aid, taken with additional officer shifts, ensured frontline policing services in Sussex remained unaffected.

Sussex Police continues to share learning from the incident across policing and other relevant agencies both across the UK and internationally.

The response of Sussex Police to the drones incident will be a key focus of the Police & Crime Commissioner’s next Performance & Accountability Meeting (PAM) on Friday 18 October at 12 noon.

Gatwick

UK’s first UV treatment of security trays installed at Gatwick to protect passengers and staff by reducing spread of coronaviruses

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Gatwick is the first airport in the UK to treat its security trays with enough UV light energy to guarantee a 99.9% microbe disinfection rate – protecting passengers and staff and reducing the spread of coronaviruses, including COVID-19, and other infections on this high-touch surface area.

The new, highly effective system – provided by Smiths Detection – sees each tray pass through a covered ‘UV-tunnel’ fixed underneath the hand luggage screening system, as trays exit the scanners, so that every tray is treated immediately before each passenger uses it.

Following a one-month trial on a single security lane in July 2020, with laboratory testing demonstrating a 99.9% microbe disinfection rate, the new system will be rolled out on eight lanes in Gatwick’s North Terminal – six for passengers and two for staff – by the end of this month.

The system uses short-wavelength UV-C light, which laboratory tests show is effective against coronaviruses, including COVID-19 and SARS, as the radiation warps the structure of their genetic material and prevents the viral particles from replicating.

The UV-C light is completely contained within a covered unit designed following safety standard BS EN ISO 15858:2016, ensuring no risk of exposure to either passengers or staff.

Gatwick and other airports have already deployed other anti-viral systems, such as coatings sprayed on to trays, however this protection dissipates over time whereas this new system treats every tray just before use – ensuring maximum protection and a reduced risk of passing on infection.

Other health measures in place at Gatwick include the frequent, enhanced deep cleaning of common-use surfaces throughout the airport, installation of approx. 500 Perspex screens, social distancing procedures at check in, security and gate rooms, well-spaced seating in departure halls and in restaurants, bars and shops and regularly signposted hand washing facilities and around 200 sanitising stations.

All passengers are also advised to bring and wear their own face covering throughout the airport and to check Gatwick’s latest online health guidance before leaving home.

Adrian Witherow, Chief Operating Officer, Gatwick Airport, said:

The health and wellbeing of our passengers and staff remains our priority. The system goes above and beyond the guidelines and we will continue to do everything we can to help reassure our passengers that flying is still a great travelling experience and that the health measures we have in place are effective and easy to follow.

“This new system has proven itself to be extremely reliable and provides a really high degree of reassurance as every single passenger and staff member using the system will have a tray that has only just been disinfected.  As an airport, we will continue to explore innovative health solutions like this that reduce the spread of coronaviruses and other infections. “

We’ve partnered with Gatwick Airport on a number of security projects over the years, bringing them cutting-edge screening technology and greater operational efficiency,” said Richard Thompson, Smiths Detection’s Global Director of Aviation.

The introduction of the UV-C kits demonstrates their interest in ensuring the highest standard of care for their customers and team members in response to COVID-19. The technology deployed by Smiths Detection will not only help to create a healthy airport but is also completely safe to use and will not slow down the security screening process.”

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