All the Gatwick drone attack theories after couple released without charge
After the only two formal suspects were released without charge, detectives appear to be back to square one in the hunt for the Gatwick Airport drone maniac.
The person responsible has so far evaded capture, disrupted 1,000 flights and plunged 200,000 passengers in Christmas travel misery.
But who could be behind the industrial-scale sabotage?
Police on Saturday found a damaged drone near the airport perimeter and a forensic examination is underway to try to find out who was operating it.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted authorities so far have no idea about the motive.
He said: "There’s no sense of motive – there’s no suggestion that this is a terrorist act. It’s clearly someone who wants to disrupt Gatwick Airport and there’s an intense police operation."
Here we look at some of the theories that experts have suggested…
Lone wolf hacker
Carys Kaiser, a professional drone pilot, says the Gatwick drones are not the work of a hobbyist doing it for YouTube hits.
She told Mail Online: "It is definitely something that is more organised in some capacity because obviously the drones that I fly and the drones that most people fly in the UK have this geo-fencing and we can’t get them to take off that close to an airport."
Ex-Army captain Richard Gill, chief executive of dronedefence.co.uk, said a genius educated to PhD level may be responsible.
Mr Gill told The Sun: “He or she is just causing hell because they can and they want to test their limits.
"It’s the thrill of getting away with it. To have evaded police radar for so long suggests some serious capability."
Police are believed to be pursuing environmental activism as a line of enquiry.
Airport protests in the UK have tended to centre around Heathrow in opposition to the proposed third runway, but that’s not to say other airports are immune from activism.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC the drone attacks could be a new form of environmental protest.
Greenpeace denied involvement in the attacks: "The disruption at Gatwick Airport is not us. When we do something we always take responsibility for our actions."
And Extinction Rebellion tweeted: "We’ve heard there are rumours circulating. We remind people that our actions are always ‘above the ground’ meaning we stand by our actions, are accountable and take the consequences."
Russia or another state sponsor
Chillingly, a state sponsor could be behind the attacks.
Russia has engaged in a major campaign of cyber-sabotage, election meddling and assassination in recent years – including the attempted murder of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
The scale of Russian hacking was laid bare in October when a bombshell report exposed worldwide attempts to use hacking to target foreign rivals.
Sir Gerald Howarth, David Cameron’s international security minister from 2010 to 2012, was asked if Russia could be behind the drone attacks.
He told TalkRadio : "Russia, of course, has engaged in the most horrendous activity in Salisbury but that didn’t involve modern technology.
"But yes, I’m afraid to say that there is a risk that this could be in some way, if not state sponsored, certainly sponsored by a terrorist group."
Local campaign groups
Gatwick has long been a source of contention in the local community because of noise pollution.
Drone specialist and architect Liam Young told Dezeen: "I suspect it is some kind of protest or frustration directed at the airline industry, perhaps focused around the environmental cost of flights, noise pollution or a screwed-over passenger."
Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, which campaigns against the airport’s expansion drive, said while it did not directly condone the drone campaign, the temporary quietness was welcomed by residents.
The group said in a statement: “Residents woke to silence from Gatwick Airport on 20th December, offering a glimpse of the tranquillity that they use to enjoy before Gatwick introduced concentrated flight paths (2013-14) and increased the number of aircraft movements.
"Although CAGNE, an umbrella community group, does not condone the irresponsible behaviour of flying drones near an airport potentially endangering lives, it was an early Christmas present for those that suffer aircraft noise."
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