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Heathrow, Gatwick investing in anti-drone technology

The British army was deployed to London Gatwick on 20 December after the airport grounded all flights, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded over some of the busiest days of the year.

Passengers wait at the North Terminal at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on 20 December 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield. London Gatwick Airport was forced to suspend all flights on December 20 due to drones flying over the airfield, causing misery for tens of thousands of stuck passengers just days before Christmas. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Britain's two biggest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, are investing in anti-drone technology following severe disruption at Gatwick caused by drone sightings in the run-up to Christmas, spokespersons said on Friday.

The British army was deployed to London Gatwick on 20 December after the airport grounded all flights, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded over some of the busiest days of the year.

"We have invested several million pounds (dollars, euros) in providing ourselves with the equipment and the technology that the armed forces deployed over Christmas," a Gatwick Airport spokesperson told AFP.

He said the investment was made "in the days immediately after" the disruption but declined to give details, saying only that it had "equivalent capabilities" to the technology used by the military.

A spokesperson for London Heathrow, Britain's biggest airport, also said they would be investing in anti-drone technology.

"The safety of our passengers and colleagues remains our top priority. Working closely with relevant authorities including the Met Police, we are constantly looking at the best technologies that help remove the threat of drones," he said.

Two people, a middle-aged couple who lived near Gatwick, were arrested over the suspected "criminal use of drones" but later released without charge.

The police were criticised for their handling of the incident after a detective admitted it was a "possibility" that no drones had actually been in the area, despite the discovery of a damaged device near the airport perimeter.