back to article Sussex Police gives up on £790k Gatwick drone shutdown probe

Sussex Police still have no clue what happened during the Gatwick drone fiasco of Christmas 2018 – though the force now claims witnesses saw two small unmanned craft over the London airport during its 30-hour shutdown. In a statement released today, Sussex Police claimed it received almost 130 sightings during the airport's …

  1. Efer Brick

    Are they still ...

    Droning on about that?

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Nice job

    A million quid in overtime for Christmas, lovely

  3. Jonathan Richards 1

    A panoramic view

    Would have been better if you'd used that one taken from 150' AGL...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    OK, so no drone activity...

    I wonder what other mysterious aircraft might have been flying in Gatwick's airspace that day?

    The truth is out there!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: OK, so no drone activity...

      Obviously testing that new cloaking technology that makes planes invisible.

      The same one they used for the navy's new aircraft carriers

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Right, the ones that don't have catapults ? Yeah, they'll need invisibility for sure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, so no drone activity...

      >I wonder what other mysterious aircraft might have been flying in Gatwick's airspace that day?

      737s, A320s

      They were probably real aircraft but the knobs were holding their binoculars back to front so they appeared small.

  5. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Not so certain

    That conclusion seems undersupported to me.

    This could have EASILY been a test run by some organization with patience. Not every terrorist group wants to be in the headlines right now, and certainly state actors don't.

    With no suspects, we simply cannot know. What seems really, REALLY unlikely is that we are dealing with a couple of kids or people on a lark. Such people don't have the discipline to keep their mouths shut.

    I'm not saying that closing the case is wrong, just that it should be worrisome.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not so certain

      >With no suspects, we simply cannot know

      With no pictures we can be pretty sure

      Anyone know how I can get a million quid to investigate reports of Big Foot in Las Vegas at this time of year ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not so certain

      XR or at least one of their "claimed" "unrelated offshoots"

      Their kind of tactics, cause total and utter misery and disruption for everyone else so they can virtue signal and "save Gaia"....forgetting the UK is less than 2% of world emissions and dropping.

      Won;t bother going anywhere that actually does majorly contribute though due to "lack of awareness in those countries" Translation they would laugh at you, tell you to Foxtrot Oscar and lastly arrest, charge, convict and then deport you after a spell in jail for being a pain in the rear / terrorists

      IMHO Roger Hallam is more than overdue for a lengthy spell at HM Pleasure for the disruption his fringe group is creating and damage to the economy, that or exile him to South Georgia, though the local wildlife might complain about having to share an island with that rabble rousing twat...

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Not so certain- Detection?

      I'm not saying that closing the case is wrong, just that it should be worrisome.

      Yup. I think the focus has to shift to detection. Which will be fun/expensive as I guess drones don't have a large RCS, especially with regular airport radars. So whether airports will need to be supplemented with drone detection kit.

      Also curious if RDF would work. I'm guessing that'd be easier for RC aircraft, but less so for drones operating in the 2.4Ghz range. I don't know how often the drone transmits so RDF could look for transmitters at altitude, but the regularly used drone bands are noisy. So I guess it'd need a form of RDF+DPI to try and profile drone traffic amongst all the other 2.4Ghz transmitters. And that assumes a drone is being remote controlled or transmitting rather than just flying a pre-programmed flight path via GPS.

      1. Ben Norris

        Re: Not so certain- Detection?

        How would you plan to tell the difference between a drone and a mobile phone carried by a passenger?

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Not so certain- Detection?

          I think this was alluded to with DPI...

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Not so certain- Detection?

            I think this was alluded to with DPI...

            Yup. Problem seems to be identifying drone + controller traffic amongst all the devices using the 2.4Ghz band, and there'd be a lot of those around an airport. So DPI might be able to profile the traffic as drone signals, and then it's how to locate those devices. So I guess radar might detect a drone, then try to isolate it's transmissions, then identify what it's transmitting to and find both endpoints.

            But there's encryption to make that harder, and profiling based on SSID/MAC might not be reliable, especially if it's an open-source drone. And it still leaves the challenge of dealing with the drone, so don't know if it could be jammed/spoofed into thinking it's lost comms, then landing or returning to base.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    21st century tactics ?

    If I were the pIRA, gearing up for a return of a NI border and fun of (re) fighting the battles of the last century, this is exactly the tack I'd take.

    I'd also use some modern tech to tell me the 11 pinch points in the UK transport network where a simultaneous bomb warning would gridlock UK plc, if not most of Europe for a good few hours. The fact that the UK police have done half the job for me with their anti-civil disorder measures (I can't be the only one to have noticed them ?) is just an added bonus.

  7. Spanners Silver badge

    Were there really any drones?

    Certainly, someone saw something.

    If they borrowed a couple of experts from the department used to discredit UFO sightings, they could have made several suggestions...


    Swamp gas

    Unexpected flight of an old SR71 (I wish)


    Mass hysteria

    and so on

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Were there really any drones?

      I get the feeling this falls under the "we know who it is, and let us never speak of it again" kind of cover up. The longer they don't talk about it, the more it they can deny it?

    2. Carpet Deal 'em

      Re: Were there really any drones?

      > "Mass hysteria"

      After the first few sightings, this was almost certainly a factor, which means you could easily add "gaslighting" to your list.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Were there really any drones?

      Leaves in the breeze, bird(s), a child's balloon, a stray shopping bag in the backwash (yes, I know The Stray is nowhere near Gatwick) ...

    4. dfsmith

      Re: Were there really any drones?

      Two european swallows carrying a coconut tied between their legs with a strand of creeper?

  8. g00se2

    Obvious culprit

    Good thing Tony Blair's not still in power. Would have been blamed on Iran by now

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious culprit

      "Good thing Tony Blair's not still in power. Would have been blamed on Iran by now"

      Not blaming Iran. He would have been censoring and spying on the Internet to keep us all safe. Thankfully the other party would never fall for that and do the same. Oh wait...

  9. cantankerous swineherd

    radar or it didn't happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      they thought of that

      they were sneaky and used a plastic drone instead of metal to evade it, obviously these are sophisticated criminals.

  10. Trollslayer

    We know what happened

    Nothing except people panicked.

  11. Tim99 Silver badge


    nearly as many sightings as Nessie then?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    witnesses saw two small unmanned craft over the London airport

    I also witnessed several small unmanned craft.

    Many milling about my backyard eating seed and several others perched above in the power lines.

  13. man_iii

    Bonus sightings

    This has to be a raise.

    Fly your flag and toot your horn. Say terrorist drones and not copper drones won the day... Paycheck

    Do it every six months and every plod tom dick and Harry will wanna join the drone patrol!!!.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward

    I'm hungry. Anybody for a nice pie 'n chips 'n gravy?

  15. DanceMan

    Previous occurences

    During WW2 in California after Pearl Harbour there were many bogus sightings of Japanese aircraft along the coast.

  16. Ray Foulkes

    Government dept likely culprit

    Need reason to introduce licence (aka tax) and restrictions on drones.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Government dept likely culprit

      False flag is certainly a possibility. Disrupt large swathes of the populous to bring them onside, then say "we warned you something like this would happen", makes it easier to push the registration angle. Bonus points if they can later require all drones be fitted with some kind of broadcasting identifier e.g. IFF.

      And of course risibly completely missing the point that real crims (a) won't register (or use a nicked drone), and (b) would disable their IFF (should such become required).

  17. Dieter Haussmann

    Munchausen syndrome by drone proxy.

  18. Pete4000uk

    Feeling sorry for....

    It's the two who were arrested and had their lives dragged through the media I feel sorry or.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Feeling sorry for....

      Needs to be better protection from malicious neighbours. Too easy to wreck someone's life with a single phone call.

  19. anonanonanon

    Not many drones can fly for 45 min

    I'm not aware of any copter drone that can do this sort of flight time, but fixed wing drones can do it, a Parrot Disco for example, cheap(ish) and advertised as being able to do 45 mins flying easily. Most copter drones do around 25 mins, but something like a DJI matrice are advertised at 38 mins max, but they are not cheap at all. They're also fairly large, easily a threat to aircraft, come supplied with multiple batteries for quick turnarounds, and they have a very long range, around 8km I think, still keeping connectivity to the controller, further on a pre planned mission, which means you could be quite a distance away. I would say users are supposed to keep line of sight at all times, but I doubt that would be a concern to someone doing this.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backhander Bungs

    130 sightings, not one of them had a camera / smartphone to hand.....?? National Media onsite with high spec cameras..nothing??

    Gatwick sold a few days later for knock down bargain basement price, coincidence?

    Probably no drones anyway, but if they were flown, flown by someone taking a massive bung from the French buyers, or from some drone defence firm who secured a £5m contract shortly thereafter, or both!!

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