Gatwick Airport ‘drone’ may have been party balloons - reports

File photo of a plane landing at Gatwick  (PA Archive)
File photo of a plane landing at Gatwick (PA Archive)

A “drone” which caused flights at Gatwick Airport to be suspended on Sunday may have in fact been party balloons, according to reports.

A dozen inbound flights to Gatwick were diverted for nearly an hour on Sunday after a suspected drone was reported to have been sighted close to the airfield by a pilot.

But a plane spotter has since shared footage of “at least seven" silver party balloons in the airport’s flight path just minutes before the airfield ground to a halt.

Lewis Milton travelled from his home in east London for plane spotting on Sunday and captured footage of the balloons on his London Planespotting YouTube channel.

He told the Brighton Argus it was “understandable” that balloons could get confused for a drone.

“Once you look up into the sky they get lost very quickly, and it was very hard to keep a track of them,” he said.

“It didn’t look like they were released on purpose, I can imagine they were used for someone’s birthday and just flew away by accident.

Gatwick Airport (PA Media)
Gatwick Airport (PA Media)

Gatwick Airport and Sussex Police have since both confirmed that no drone was found in the wake of the incident.

A source familiar with the investigation also told the Telegraph newspaper: “It now appears that the balloons may have been wrongly identified as a drone.”

Gatwick was crippled in 2018 by suspected drone sightings which closed the airport for more than a day, affecting more than 1,000 flights.

Nobody has ever been prosecuted over the supposed drone interference.

Both Gatwick and Heathrow have installed anti-drone technology at their airports to prevent a repeat of the 2018 incident.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: “This investigation followed sightings from a pilot and also airfield staff about a suspected drone close to the flight path of approaching aircraft.

“Following further investigation, no drone was found and the airfield reopened at 1435.  All twelve aircraft that were diverted as a result of this incident returned to London Gatwick on Sunday.”

A Sussex Police spokesperson said it had assisted the airport over reported drone sightings, but “no drones were found”.