Gatwick airport has been shut down since Wednesday night UK time due to the presence of multiple drones around the perimeter of the runway. A drone was first spotted Wednesday evening in the vicinity of Gatwick’s runway. After being briefly re-opened several hours later, the runway was shut down for good when several more drones were discovered. Given the public safety risk of attempting to shoot the drones down from the ground, law enforcement is instead focusing on identifying and apprehending the drone operators to ensure that the area is safe for air travel.
Earlier this week, Canada’s transport minister announced that a drone had collided with a commercial aircraft, the first confirmed collision of its kind in North America. Thankfully, the aircraft sustained only minor damage and was able to land safely. But this recent incident, which many commentators believed was inevitable given the proliferation of consumer and commercial drones, highlights the potential risks associated with drone operations.
From disaster preparedness and workplace safety to autonomous deliveries and performance arts, companies worldwide increasingly rely on drones as a natural extension of their business. Recent Federal Aviation Administration forecasts predict that nearly 4 million drones—over 420,000 of which will be used for commercial operations—will be operating in the U.S. by the year 2021.