The Guardian view on drones: effective regulation needed | Editorial
The shutdown at Gatwick airport should make us question why the pleasure of hobbyists takes precedence over public safety
The mocking drones that have shut down Gatwick airport have shown up the shocking weakness of the British state. The political scientist David Runciman has described the contemporary state as simultaneously weaker and stronger than it was 100 years ago: it hopes to control much more than it used to, but partly as a consequence of these ambitions it lacks the power to fulfil all of them. This is perhaps a more profound lesson about sovereignty than some other contemporary discussions. The British state believes it has, or ought to have, sovereignty over its own airspace. Yet what appears to be a handful of troublemakers has been able to shut down the second largest airport in the country, defying the police and even the army, and causing hundreds of millions of pounds in damage to services and untold frustration and distress to hundreds of thousands of travellers. The model for the exercise of British air power is no longer the Battle of Britain.
It is already obvious that this could have had catastrophic consequences had it been a straightforward terrorist attack, which would have flown a drone into an engine of a fully loaded airliner. This would be the equivalent of a deliberate bird strike, and quite likely to cause a horrendous crash if the pilot did not have the skills and reflexes of Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who managed to land in the Hudson river in 2009 when his airliner struck a flock of geese shortly after taking off from New York. In the war against Islamic State, both sides made frequent use of drones both for reconnaissance and for delivering explosives. Now it turns out that a completely unarmed drone – without, so far as we know, even a camera on it – can be a fairly devastating weapon too.
Source: Guardian Transport