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Phantom Menace?

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Did you fly anywhere for Christmas? I didn’t but I feel sorry for those who had plans which were derailed or completely scuppered by Gatwick airport being largely shut down for a couple of days due to reported unauthorised drone activity in the area. Lots of misery for travellers, massive economic costs and also a couple who were arrested, named and then released without charge.

It turns out that not only were the authorities unable to track down the unauthorised drones but they also don’t have any good evidence they even existed in the first place. Given that we live in a heavily surveilled society and that airports, with all the potential security fears, seem to be right at the heart of that, it seems somewhat confusing. I may be a bear of little brain but I struggle to comprehend that Sussex Police can’t even present a few seconds of grainy cellphone footage to corroborate the reports received (according to the BBC, 115 reports, of which 93 came from ‘credible’ people).

It beggars belief that it could all have been based on misunderstanding but seems at least possible that this was the case. It certainly suggests a lack of suitable preparation for the incident, which shouldn’t be repeated. I imagine there are people responsible for the various authorities involved who are hoping for some other news stories to make us all forget about what I suspect is probably being called dronegate in some circles (yep, thank you Twitter for that confirmation). Meanwhile, a few free quick fire suggestions from me:

  1. Take advantage of the fact that airports are set up with excellent visibility from structures such as control towers
  2. If you can’t maintain a local fleet of drones, mobilise local enthusiasts to fly fast drones with clear shell markings and built in trackers who can be called on should such an incident occur again (which just need to spot and follow an unauthorised drone)
  3. Take some pictures. The technology exists and costs a fraction of what this debacle will have run to.