Gatwick drone crisis: Airport tells travellers to stay away as police search for drone operator

Gatwick Airport is telling travellers to stay away as the rogue drones crisis deepens.

Hundreds of flights in and out of the airport have been cancelled, as a number of drones have been darting across the runway for more than 23 hours.

As of 9:30pm Thursday (local time) the airport has announced it won't be reopening again overnight after a drone was spotted in the last hour.

Efforts to catch the drones have been futile, and the military has been called in to try and sort out the problem.

Sussex police are now trying to find whoever is operating the drones. It asked on Twitter for anyone with information to call 999.

A flood of calls overwhelmed the emergency number, and police are now asking for information only about the operator.

"We thank everyone for their help but we ask that information shared with us is focused on the identity or location of the drone operator. We are employing all available options to deal with the drone," it said.

Gatwick has advised travellers to stay away from the airport for the foreseeable future, including Friday (UK time), Sky News reports.

Extra staff have been deployed to manage the travellers stranded in the airport after nearby hotels ran out of room, the Guardian reports.

Water is being handed out throughout the terminals and food and drink outlets are being restocked. The heating will be kept on overnight for people waiting in the terminals.

Meanwhile airlines are diverting planes away from Gatwick to avoid the drones. On Friday, any Gatwick flights operated by budget airline Ryanair will be leaving from Stanstead, 112km away.

Meanwhile a packed Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which can carry up to 335 passengers, ended up landing at Sheffield Airport in Doncaster, 330km away from Gatwick.

It was forced to land at the small northern airport, which is mostly used for short-haul and cargo flights due to its long, wide runway. Many other airports were unable to receive such a large plane.

The passengers were taken to Gatwick by bus, a trip which will have taken about 3.5 hours.