London airport open; I.D. of drone culprit up in air
London — London’s Gatwick Airport operated without problems Sunday, but the fugitive drone operators who brought incoming and outgoing flights to a standstill over multiple days remained at large — and a potential threat — after police cleared two local residents arrested as suspects.
Sussex Police were hopeful they had halted the disruptive and costly drone incursions during one of the heaviest travel periods of the year with Friday’s arrests of a couple who live near the airport. But they were released Sunday, and police said they were no longer suspects.
Tens of thousands of passengers suffered through long flight delays or were stranded by cancellations after two drones were reported seen above the airfield at Gatwick on Wednesday night, prompting an immediate suspension of all air traffic.
Sussex Chief Detective Jason Tingley said Sunday he could not rule out new drone activity at Gatwick or other U.K. airports. He also said it was possible that witnesses who reported sightings after the first ones aroused alarm were mistaken.
“Of course, that’s a possibility. We are working with human beings saying they have seen something,” Tingley told the BBC.
At the same, he said police were making progress in a three-pronged investigation: tracking “persons of interest,” investigating 67 reported drone sightings, and examining a damaged drone found near Gatwick.
The drone in police hands may provide useful forensic clues, such as the DNA of people who handled it, Tingley said. But the rain the London area got on Friday and Saturday might have washed away some evidence, he said.
Airport authorities consider drones a menace because they could damage a plane in flight or be sucked into a plane’s engine, causing a deadly crash
On Sunday, flight arrival and departure boards showed fewer delays than on Saturday.