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Drone causes disruptions and diversions at Gatwick Airport

The UK has strict rules about where you can't fly drones. Break them and you could end up in prison.

Aerial View Of London-Gatwick Airport, Crawley

CRAWLEY, UK - AUGUST 2007: An aerial image of London-Gatwick Airport, Crawley

Blom UK / Getty Images

Flights at London Gatwick airport were disrupted on Sunday night when a drone flew close to the airport.

Gatwick's runway was closed twice -- once for five minutes and once for nine minutes -- causing five flights to be diverted to other airports. Four of the diverted flights were EasyJet planes and one was a British Airways aircraft, which landed instead at Bournemouth Airport.

The rules for flying drones in the UK were last revised in November 2016 and forbid flying drones near airports or airfields. The incident is currently being investigated by Sussex police and penalties for flouting the rules include fines or imprisonment.

"Due to reports of an unconfirmed sighting of a drone in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 1810 and 1819 and again from 1836 to 1841, on Sunday 2 July," said a Gatwick Airport spokesman in a statement.

"This resulted in a small number of go-arounds and diverts and operations resumed yesterday evening. This has been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority who are looking into the matter."

Passengers on three EasyJet flights that were diverted to Stansted were given the option of disembarking there or waiting an hour to fly on to Gatwick. Passengers from the one flight diverted to London Southend were offered coach transfers.

MP Mark Pritchard tweeted in response to the incident that as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on aviation he would be asking for urgent action on drones threat.

The Civil Aviation Authority didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.