Others were baffled by how poorly prepared the airport seemed.
“This is a huge security risk. How does the airport not have the resources to down the drone?” asked Alison Carter, 44, a German teacher. “What kind of message does this give to terrorists and criminals?”
Technology companies have invented several anti-drone defense systems, but they are relatively new, and airports and government officials are still weighing which to invest in. One system that was recently deployed to stop drug smuggling at an English prison acts as an electronic fence, blocking radio signals around a prison whenever drones are detected.
But Richard Gill, the founder and chief executive of Drone Defence, which made the electronic fence, said airports were technologically complex landscapes and officials were studying all the available options. He said the mishap at Gatwick would concentrate people’s minds on the potential dangers.
“This hasn’t happened anywhere in the world before,” he said.
The system developed by Mr. Bean and Fortem Technologies uses a sophisticated radar system to detect intruder drones, and then sends a drone hunter to pluck them out of the sky or dog fight with them if necessary. The system is already being used to monitor two runways at Salt Lake City International Airport and others, he said.
British laws make it illegal to fly a drone within a kilometer, or about three-fifths of a mile, of airport boundaries. Violators are subject to five years in prison.
As of Nov. 30, 2019, owners of drones weighing more than 250 grams, or a bit more than half a pound, will have to register them with the Civil Aviation Authority, and those who fly them will have to pass an online safety test. Not following these steps could result in fines of as much as $1,270.
Airports have been shut down before over the appearance of a drone. Gatwick was closed after drone sightings in July 2017. Airports in Chengdu, China; Dubai, the United Arab Emirates; and Ottawa have also had to shut down because of drone sightings.