In December 2018, a few days before Christmas, several drones were sighted near Gatwick Airport, the busiest one-way hub in the world.
The airport operator was aware of the dangers posed by rogue drones in busy airspace. He responded quickly, suspended all departures and redirected incoming flights to other airports in the region.
Repeated sightings of the drones caused interruptions for three days, so the runway was closed for a total of 33 hours. The chaos at the airport in Sussex, southern England, resulted in around 1,000 flights being canceled, which ruined the travel plans of 120,000 passengers. Some estimate the total cost of the incident to be a whopping $ 62 million.
Police were under pressure to find those behind the illegal drone flights, and within a few days, 12 armed officers came across the house of Paul and Elaine Gait, who live near the airport. The gaits were interviewed for three days. During this time, several national newspapers delved into their private lives, revealing their names and publishing their photos, one of which was titled, "Are these the idiots who ruined Christmas?"
But the couple had no drones and had been working when the sightings were reported.
After two nights in police custody, Paul and Elaine were released without charge. They later spoke to reporters and said the experience made them "deeply desperate" and "completely hurt", which prompted them to seek medical help.
An out-of-court settlement was announced over the weekend following the couple's decision to sue Sussex police for illegal arrest and false detention, the BBC reports.
The Sussex police apologized for what the Gaits had been through and agreed to pay them a total of £ 200,000 (approximately $ 250,000) in compensation and legal fees.
The couple's legal team said in a statement: “We are delighted to have finally received confirmation. It was a very long struggle for justice. It took protracted legal proceedings to get a solution from the police and finally put an end to this stressful time. "
In response to the result, Sussex's Deputy Chief of Police David Miller said that he was "deeply sorry" for the "inconvenience" of the couple's experiences, and admitted that it must have been "traumatic".
Miller added: “Unfortunately, innocent people are sometimes arrested as part of necessary police investigations in the public interest if the police perform their duties on behalf of the public. However, we are aware that things could have been done differently. As a result, the Sussex police have agreed to pay you compensation and legal fees. "
The deputy chief of police described the drone incident, for which no one has yet been charged, as “a serious and deliberate crime that is supposed to endanger airport operations and the safety of the traveling public. A drone attack can do significant damage to an airplane in flight, and it is important to emphasize that public safety has always been a priority in our response. "