Gatwick Airport ‘drone chaos’—the impact on commercial drone industry and regulation

Simon Phippard, Of Counsel at Bird & Bird, considers the impact that the Christmas 2018 ‘drone chaos’ at Gatwick Airport is likely to have on the commercial drone industry and regulation.

It appears accepted that the drone incident at Gatwick Airport was a sustained and malicious operation designed to disrupt the functioning of the airport. Whether there was a more malign intent to cause an aircraft accident remains unclear but if there is one good piece of news, it is that the drone was identified before an accident occurred and the suspension of flights prevented a more serious incident. However, the disruption was considerable.

The point to keep in mind is that the activity was unlawful. Indeed, despite the government’s reference in the aftermath to the summer 2018 changes to the Air Navigation Order 2016, SI 2016/765, implemented by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018, SI 2018/623 (ANO 2018), it would have been unlawful under the previous regime as well.

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