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London airport experiences closure due to drones, more than 100,000 to experience delays

More than 750 flights delayed

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LONDON – London-Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest in the UK, was shut down Wednesday night and Thursday after two drones were reportedly spotted flying near the airfield.

BBC News reports more than 100,000 passengers and over 750 flights will be affected and the military has been called in to support local police.

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Airport officials tweeted the first closure occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday and the airport reopened at about 3 a.m. Thursday, only to close again at 3:45 a.m. Flights expected to land at Gatwick Airport were diverted to other airports and all departing flights for the rest of Thursday have been canceled.

"We apologize to any affected passengers for this inconvenience," the tweet reads, "but the safety of our passengers and all staff is our foremost priority."

More than 20 police officers searched for the drone pilot.

“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,”

Research from the Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned aircraft system through research Excellence, in conjunction with the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, suggests drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision.

On Dec. 14, a Boeing 737 reportedly struck a drone while landing in Mexico, suffering damage to the front of the plane. It landed safely.

It is illegal to fly a drone within 1 kilometer of an airport or airfield boundary.

The drone pilot faces up to five years in jail if found and convicted.