"It's realistically going to take several days to recover," Gatwick's chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe said.
People traveling through London's Gatwick airport are expected to face disruptions for at least 24 hours after several drone sightings near the airfield forced Britain's second busiest airport to shut down its runway, causing delays for tens of thousands of Christmas and holiday travelers.
Authorities at Gatwick halted flights at 10:00 p.m. GMT Wednesday after two drones were spotted flying near the airfield. Police said they believed the actions were intentional. More than 20 law enforcement units were searching for the drone operators Thursday.
"Public safety is paramount and we will take all available actions to disrupt this deliberate act," Sussex Police said in a statement. "There are no indications to suggest this is terror related."
Police and airport reports talked of sightings of more than one drone. Woodroofe described one of the drones as a heavy industrial drone.
"It's definitely not a standard, off-the-shelf type drone," he said on BBC radio. "Given what has happened I definitely believe it is a deliberate act, yes."
Gatwick's Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe could not say when flights would resume and warned that the effects of the airport closure would last for more than 24 hours. The airport expected to handle around 115,000 passengers Thursday.
"We also have the helicopter up in the air but the police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets," Woodroofe said.
Under British law it is illegal to fly drones within 1 km (0.62 mile) of an airport boundary. The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.