Britain's major airports are to step up security with military-grade detection systems that would help them counter Gatwick-style drone incidents by launching their own "killer drones" or shooting them down with firearms.

The move emerged as Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, prepared to meet earlier this week to review progress on the police investigation and measures to protect the public from future attacks.

All airports in Britain are increasing or reviewing their defences because of fears of copycat attacks, according to Whitehall sources, following the chaos at Gatwick that ruined the travel plans of 140,000 people.

Read more: Flights resume at London Gatwick after drone report shut runway down


Gatwick is expected to be the first to operate detection technology designed to be as sophisticated as that being used by the crack RAF and Army signals teams deployed to the airport last week.

It allows personnel to detect, track and photograph drones at a distance of more than 1km and up to 5km.

Whitehall sources said options for countering the threat included airports deploying their own drones, firing bazookas with projectiles that trapped them in nets, or deploying police with shotguns to shoot them down.

The military team was due to remain at Gatwick until the airport's own defence system was operational, possibly for the two weeks over Christmas.

Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Gatwick, said: "We are equipping ourselves with capabilities to detect and defeat drones."

A Whitehall source said: "The first thing is to detect when a drone is coming in and having enough distance in which to do that. Second is being able to track the signal."

The Metis Skyperion technology, thought to be used by the military, deploys cameras, laser rangefinders, radar and radio frequency scanners to pinpoint the drone. To install a similar system at a major airport could cost up to £5 million ($9.4m), according to one expert.

To track the drone to its operator would require additional sensors that even the military has not deployed at Gatwick. Finding the culprit becomes easier if they remain in sight of their device.


Gatwick declined to reveal the measures it was considering to "defeat" or "disrupt" any further attacks. Police at Heathrow are testing a SkyWall 100 bazooka, a shoulder-launched weapon that fires a projectile containing a net.

"Some of the airports are putting up enhanced firearms capabilities, most are doing increased police patrols inside and outside," said a Whitehall source.

"Airports are also assessing and monitoring potential launch sites."
Legislation will be rushed through in the new year to enable electronic jamming by airports, bigger drone exclusion zones and new police powers.