LONDON – UK airports are stepping up efforts to combat drones after severe disruptions during the holiday season, marking the first tangible sign that these three days of disruptive flight could be a catalyst for spending on systems intended to counteract the malicious use of unmanned aircraft.

London Gatwick, the UK's second largest airport after Heathrow, has announced that it has recently spent several million pounds to buy new equipment for the management of disruptive drones. The system is what the country's army uses, the airport said without identifying the supplier.

Counterdrone's tools cover a range of technologies, including acoustic and radar sensors for locating small aircraft. These may be sophisticated devices for shooting down drones, such as jammers disrupting the communication link between the aircraft and the operator. Most sales of control equipment, which can be expensive, have so far been to the military, according to industry officials. Troops are increasingly threatened by small drone attacks on the battlefield.

Repeated sightings of drones forced Gatwick to close its single runway several times between December 19 and 21, affecting approximately 140,000 passengers after 1,000 flights were canceled and many more delayed. The local police are still looking for the perpetrators and have 93 credible witnesses. Nobody was convicted for the chaos and the authorities offered a £ 50,000 reward for information to stop and convict those who operate drones.

Authorities shut down England 's second busiest airport at the end of December, bolstering plans for more than 100,000 passengers, after what they termed a deliberate attempt by the government. use of drones to disrupt travel. Photo: Peter Nicholls / Reuters

The British Army has deployed some of its anti-UAV equipment to Gatwick to allow the airport to resume normal operations. These systems were removed this week. Gatwick stated that the equipment he acquired provides "a level of reinsurance similar to that used by the armed forces.

London Heathrow, Europe's busiest hub, stepped up patrols around its facility in December to mitigate the risk of drone disruption that affected Gatwick at the time. The airport said Friday it was working with the authorities to deal with the risk of unmanned aircraft. "We are constantly looking for the best technologies to eliminate the threat of drones," said a spokeswoman. She declined to say whether the airport had invested in drone equipment.

US and European regulators have struggled to find ways to create a commercial UAV industry that promises to become a multi-billion dollar annual event and protect the public from imprudent device use. A local city council in Britain this week has proposed limiting the unregulated use of drones. The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States last month announced plans for industry-government pilot projects to test the identification of drones in flight.

Following the events in Gatwick, the UK Government stated that it has made free-wheeling control equipment available for deployment throughout the country. The government also said it could recommend tightening rules on the use of UAVs this year and call for stronger police powers and guidelines to test and use control equipment.

In the UK, it is illegal to fly a drone within 1 kilometer of an airport. Offenders may be liable to a fine and a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, although prosecutions for misuse of drones are rare. The pilots want this exclusion zone to be increased to 5 km.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com