A £50,000 reward is being offered for information in relation to numerous illegal drone sightings at Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police has revealed.
Police said Gatwick Airport Limited is offering the reward through independent charity Crimestoppers, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for causing widespread disruption of flights in the run up to Christmas.
Sussex Police deputy chief constable Jo Shiner said the force can 'unequivocally state' that there have been numerous illegal drone sightings at the airport over three days from 19 to 21 December.
She added: “There were numerous reports clustered around 37 occasions where a drone or drones were seen and I am keen for those responsible to be brought to justice.”
Police also listed details of all the drone sightings at the airport.
A police spokesman said: "The first report was on December 19 around 9pm when an airport security officer finishing work reported seeing two drones flying near Perimeter Road South, describing their cross shape and flashing lights.
"Half an hour later at about 9.30pm six people, including five police officers, reported within 15 minutes of each other seeing a drone, with white and red lights, near the runway."
Police said that early the next morning, at around 1.15am on December 20, six people – three airport workers and three police officers – reported over 30 minutes seeing a drone near the runway.
The spokesman added: "Over about 30 minutes at about 5pm on 21 December six people – a member of the public and five police officers – reported seeing a drone near a hangar.
"In a further report at around 7.15pm on 21 December a pilot reported seeing a drone near a stand on the airfield. The account was corroborated by a member of staff."
DCC Shiner added that the impact of this 'criminal and reckless behaviour' has been 'enormous'.
"We are determined to locate those responsible to bring them to justice," she continued.
"We are investigating this under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
“We urge the public to contact us if they feel they have information that will help us in our investigation. Contacting Crimestoppers they can do this anonymously. We ask the public to continue to support us by reporting any suspicious activity.”
Mark Hallas, chief executive officer of Crimestoppers, said the charity is 'happy to support' Gatwick Airport Limited on this reward to 'catch whoever has been ruining the travel plans of so many people this holiday season'.
He added: "Giving information through Crimestoppers, whether by phone or online, will always be 100% anonymous – we’re interested in what you know, not your name.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Crimestoppers said the reward will only qualify if information is passed to it by either of these methods.