Ministers were scrambling to protect Britain against potential "copycat" drone attacks amid fears the chaos at Gatwick could be replicated at other transport hubs across the country.
Whitehall sources said the authorities were "very concerned" about attempts to repeat the three days of paralysis at Britain's second busiest airport and were taking urgent steps to safeguard others against the threat.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, who is among ministers liaising with authorities and airport chiefs, said: "The Armed Forces stand ready to assist the civilian authorities whenever they are required". Senior ministers are due to meet at Downing Street to discuss the threat.
Yesterday police arrested a local drone enthusiast on suspicion of carrying out the attack. His boss insisted that Paul Gait, 47, was at work. Gait, a window fitter, was detained with his wife Elaine Kirk, 54, at their home in Crawley, just a five-minute drive from the airport's perimeter. Their family and neighbours expressed surprise over the couple's arrest.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
In 2016 a report set out how terror groups such as Hizbollah had used the devices to drop small bombs and warned for the potential for them to be used in "kamikaze"-style ramming attacks at airports. But in this case the drone simply hovered in the air.
Richard Walton, former Scotland Yard head of counter-terrorism, said: "Unfortunately we are now likely to see copycat incidents off the back off this. And the ease with which a major UK aviation hub was brought to a standstill will not have escaped the attention of terrorist groups."
A team of RAF and Army personnel is expected to remain at Gatwick for a fortnight. Military equipment was used to stop further disruption. It is believed that equipment is being deployed to other airports. One piece of equipment thought to have been used is the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar, and jam communications between a drone and its operator.
The crisis has prompted a political row, with ministers accused of failing to approve cutting-edge technology.