ARPAS-UK Press Statement 20/12/2018

ARPAS-UK Press Statement 20/12/2018


Drones stop flights at Gatwick Airport


The Incident

A drone was reported just after 2100 GMT on 19/12/2018. Flights were stopped and planes diverted to other airports. “Multiple reports” of further sightings followed, according to a Gatwick spokesman, and all flights to and from the airport were suspended.

The runway was briefly reopened at about 03:01 but forced to close again about 45 minutes later amid “a further sighting of drones”.

Chief Operating Officer at Gatwick, Mr Woodroofe told the BBC two drones had been seen flying “over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from”, causing “very significant disruption”.  He said 20 police units from 2 police forces were hunting for the drone pilot, but police had not wanted to shoot the drones down because of the risk from stray bullets.


Flights were again suspended at 0700 GMT on 20/12/2018 when a drone was again seen flying within the airfield.


ARPAS-UK Comment

Graham Brown, CEO of ARPAS-UK, commented:

The above details are what we have learned from various news channels. We don’t have any further details of the incident(s) at this time. We will await confirmation that it was a drone or multiple drones.

It is illegal to Operate a Drone at an airport, without the appropriate approvals. This incident at Gatwick clearly involves the illegal operation of a Drone and we fully support the police in their endeavours to apprehend the individuals responsible.

Understandably, Gatwick Airport has to err on the side of safety and unfortunately, this causes a lot of inconvenience to those wanting to fly today.

ARPAS-UK members have been trained and have obtained the CAA’s Permission of Commercial Operations, which permits them to fly within the legal limits. They understand the regulations and adhere to the ARPAS-UK Code of Conduct.

As of November 2019 the law will require registration of drone operators and there will be a pilot competence test for all drone users including those that only use them for leisure purposes. In the meantime all drones sold in the UK come with instructions on the Drone Safe Code. It is the responsibility of the drone user to know the law and adhere to it.

Counter Drone technology is currently being developed and will in due course assist the Police in situations like the one today at Gatwick. Longer term it will also help reduce disruption caused by illegal Drone Operations. ARPAS UK fully supports the development and roll out of this technology, which will be used by appropriately qualified and authorised Operators.

Education of Drone Flyers

One of the roles of ARPAS-UK is education. We co-ordinate closely with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) promoting their public education. We are also working with Devon, Cornwall and Dorset Police to expand their Safer Drones workshops aimed at public education. We work to support STEM engagement with schools too.

We hope that this was an incident that happened through lack of knowledge and that whoever the pilot was they have learned a lesson from the reaction and disruption they have caused.


ARPAS-UK is the UK Drone Association. It works closely with industry regulators and UK Government departments to influence and ensure that the regulatory framework for the safe and professional operation of drones is fit for purpose and encourages best practice. It exists to support members and drive the industry forward.

Members cover all areas of the UK, including members of the Emergency Services and Search and Rescue organisations too. All members adhere to a Code of Conduct based on safety, professionalism and respect.

With a searchable database of CAA approved operators, members are involved in all areas of drone work.