Drone sightings ground planes at UK's Gatwick airport

Nearly 50 drone sightings had been reported at the airport during the initial incidents from 9:07 p.m. Wednesday to 4:25 p.m. Thursday, Sussex police said, though some reports may have been duplicates.

Stewart Wingate said in a statement issued on Thursday that it was "regrettably" not clear when the airport would be able to resume flights safely because the drones still were a threat.

Around 145 of the 837 flights at Gatwick on Friday were cancelled, the airport said. "If you are due to travel from Gatwick today, we strongly recommend that you check the status of your flight with your airline before departing for the airport".

He added: "Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears".

Gatwick shut down Wednesday night following reports of drones flying over the airfield; the runway briefly reopened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, but closed 45 minutes later after another sighting.

Drone expert Peter Lee of Portsmouth University said he and others had been anticipating disruption. Eric Sazcuk is an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Gatwick airport, the UK's second busiest airport, is still experiencing delays and cancellations after a drone appeared in airspace on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of passengers have been disrupted in a shutdown of London's Gatwick Airport because drones were spotted over the airfield.

Shoot them down, some said. No group has claimed responsibility publicly.

The Gatwick statement suggests authorities are concerned the drones may be seen again, which would likely lead to a fresh closure of the runway. He told the BBC that the drone disruption at Gatwick was "unprecedented anywhere in the world".

Grayling lifted night-flying restrictions at other airports to ease congestion caused by diverted aircraft.

The incident is not terror related, it has been confirmed.

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Passengers waiting Friday to check in at Gatwick's South Terminal building faced the longest delays seen there in several years.

The British military has joined police and aviation authorities in the search for the culprit or culprits behind the drone intrusion, which police said was created to cause maximum disruption over the holiday period.

Johnson, a Calgarian who is completing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, says she was supposed to fly home for the holidays via Toronto at around 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. MST).

"It's sophisticated, not from a technology side, but it's organised. People have charged lots of batteries, and are deliberately trying to avoid being caught, probably by driving around to different locations", he told Reuters.

British troops may be sent in to help hunt drones that have shut down Gatwick Airport. Police said the "devices used are of an industrial specification", an indication that the drones weren't small, low-cost machines.

Authorities have been warning for years about the risk of a disastrous collision between a drone and an airliner.

Many incoming flights have been diverted to other destinations in Britain and continental Europe. Airprox reports are filed in the United Kingdom when pilots or air traffic controllers feel the distance between two aircraft could compromise safety.

Under a new British law, drones can not be flown near aircraft or within a kilometre of an airport, or at an altitude of over 400 feet (122 metres).

May warned the perpetrators they could face up to five years in prison for endangering an aircraft under recently passed legislation.

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said the incident was "a highly targeted activity which has been created to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas".

The persistent drone crisis at Gatwick, located 30 miles (45 kilometres) south of London, has had ripple effects throughout the global air travel system.

The Thursday shutdown upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers, since about 110,000 people had been scheduled to pass through Gatwick that day.

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