The Royal Air Force (RAF) has left Gatwick Airport in London, over a week after a mysterious drone sighting cancelled about 100 flights and disrupted holiday travel for an estimated 140,000 travellers, according to the BBC.
The incident prompted international attention, and rabid speculation as to who was controlling the rogue UAV. The military was called in, equipped with signal jamming instruments meant to corral the aircraft if the chance presented itself.
It never did. Authorities opted not to shoot down the drone, but rather to wait it out, in large part due to the lack of rules dictating how to deal with such a conundrum. As business slowly resumed its course at Gatwick, it’s become clear how ill-equipped we are to deal with drones intruding on commercial airspace, but the story of Gatwick is even more absurd than that because, so far, no one is particularly sure what even happened.
No drones have been recovered after a search of 26 sites close to the airport. The only suspects in the case were released shortly after their detainment, but not before tabloid media made a show of their assumed guilt.
Perhaps most extreme of all, a Sussex police officer noted before Christmas that it’s “always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place.” That statement was later chalked up to “miscommunication” by police afterwards but while authorities said they’re aware of “relevant sightings” of the drone from 115 witnesses—93 of which have been deemed “credible”—they appear to be primarily eye-witness accounts.
The only publicly available footage of what may be the drone is a short, grainy clip that appears to show a blurry dot above a runway. That may be enough send YouTube conspiracy theorists off to the races, but the absence of more concrete footage is genuinely perplexing given the number of presumably smartphone-wielding bystanders who claim to have seen the drone.
Meanwhile, the independent charity Crimestoppers is offering a £50,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction of the drone operators. That is, if there are any to find.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics