- UK police reportedly told the government that its own suggestion Gatwick airport was shut down by nonexistent drones was the result of a communications failure.
- The detective chief superintendent said there was "always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity" because police were relying on eyewitnesses.
- But police told government ministers that it didn't mean to suggest the drone was never there, according to The Guardian.
- The drone sightings caused chaos for the UK's second busiest airport, closing it for more than 36 hours and disrupting more than 120,000 people.
- Police arrested two people, but later released them without charge and are appealing for information.
Police reportedly told the UK government that their own suggestion that the drone that shut down London's Gatwick Airport for 36 hours might never have existed was the result of "poor communication."
Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley suggested on Sunday that it was possible there never was a drone.
He said there was "always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place," because police relied on human witnesses to the sighting, The Guardian and The Times of London reported.
But police later told government ministers on an hour-long conference call that there was a communications failure and they did not mean to suggest that there was never a drone at the airport, according to The Guardian.
Tingley said on Sunday that police received 67 reports of drone sightings between December 19 and 21 from the public, passengers, police officers, and airport staff, according to The Guardian.
Police released a local man and woman without charge on Sunday, who had been arrested on suspicion of "criminal drone activity." They offered a 50,000 ($63,300) reward to anyone with significant information about the drone.
A damaged drone was recovered near the airport's perimeter, Tingley said, and it was being examined for clues. He said investigators would look for clues about whether it was controlled remotely from afar or by somebody in the vicinity.
Airport officials warned last week that the pilot, or another operator, could shut down the airport all over again by flying another drone.
The close of the UK's second biggest airport left more than 120,000 people dealing with delayed, canceled, or rerouted flights between Wednesday night and Friday afternoon.
Disrupting an airport with a drone is a crime in many places, including in the UK, where it can be punished with five years in prison.
- Travelers had to sleep on floors and grounded planes for hours after rogue drones shut down major London airport just before Christmas
- Whoever used a drone to shut down Gatwick Airport for 32 hours has evaded capture, and could easily do it again
- Major British airport forced to shut down for at more than 24 hours by someone flying drones over the runway