Two arrested for Gatwick Airport drone chaos, 'environmental activism' a rumored motive

Gatwick Airport reopens after done activity forces 36-hour shutdown, leaving 100,000 holiday travelers stranded

British authorities have arrested two suspects in connection with the drone mayhem at London’s Gatwick Airport, after the mysterious aircraft was spotted in the skies on Wednesday night, creating a nightmare 36-hour delay that impacted more than 100,000 holiday travelers.

Though officials have yet to make a statement, multiple outlets in the U.K. are citing “environmental activism” as a likely motive.

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The arrivals board at Gatwick Airport showing cancelled, diverted and delayed flights as the airport remains closed with incoming flights delayed or diverted to other airports, after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning Thursday Dec. 20, 2018. London’s Gatwick Airport remained shut during the busy holiday period Thursday while police and airport officials investigate reports that drones were flying in the area of the airfield. (Thomas Hornall/PA via AP)

Police revealed Saturday that a 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman from nearby Crawley were charged late Friday night in connection with the crime. The duo were arrested on suspicion of disrupting civil aviation in a way likely to endanger people or operations.

As noted by several outlets, including The Standard, The Telegraph and The Times, an “eco-protest” was likely the impetus behind the disruption. Police say that the inspiration for this “new kind of attack” remains unclear at this time.

MOST BIZARRE AIRLINE INCIDENTS OF 2018

"This is something that has not been experienced before. This is a new kind of attack,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, noting that the attack “could be [an] environmental protest" but "we genuinely don't know” at this time.

People wait near the departures gate at Gatwick airport, near London, as the airport remains closed with incoming flights delayed or diverted to other airports, after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning.
(AP)

In the wake of the chaos, environmental organizations Extinction Rebellion, Plane Stupid, and Greenpeace have all denied responsibility for the incident.

Likewise, Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry told the BBC that though authorities have ruled out the drone chaos as an act of terror, they are exploring potential motivations of environmental activism,

An EasyJet plane on its final approach before landing at Gatwick airport near London on Friday.
(AP)

"This incident has been really unusual in the concerted and malicious and really criminal level of the behavior of the drone operator and that did cause us some challenges," he said.

The airport resumed operations Friday morning after being closed since Wednesday night, when mystery drones first started appearing around its runway.

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A woman waits in the departures area at Gatwick airport, near London, as the airport remains closed with incoming flights delayed or diverted to other airports, after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. London’s Gatwick Airport remained shut during the busy holiday period Thursday while police and airport officials investigate reports that drones were flying in the area of the airfield. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Over the next day and a half, there were around 40 reported sightings of the drones – the most recent occurring last night around 10 p.m. local time. A report of a new drone sighting Friday afternoon, which temporarily suspended flights once again at Gatwick, was unfounded.

People wait outside the departures gate at Gatwick airport, near London, as the airport remains closed with incoming flights delayed or diverted to other airports, after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. London’s Gatwick Airport remained shut during the busy holiday period Thursday while police and airport officials investigate reports that drones were flying in the area of the airfield.
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Airport officials say the aim is to run a full complement of 757 flights on Saturday with just under 125,000 passengers at Britain's second-largest air hub.

The persistent drone crisis at Gatwick, located 30 miles south of London and which serves 43 million passengers a year, has had ripple effects throughout the international air travel system.

Fox News’ Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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