Southend airport has been working with manufacturers of drone detection systems to tackle the threat of disruption by rogue drone users.

Earlier this month, Heathrow airport had to ground aircraft for about an hour after a sighting of a drone – but Gatwick was very severely affected in December when it had to cancel flights over the course of three days, affecting the travel of an estimated 140,000 people.

Damon Knight, head of air traffic services at Southend airport, told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve been trialling a couple of systems, very similar to each other, to detect drones.

“In particular, we’re trying to look for the radio signals from the drones, back to the operators, and then potentially, we can locate where the drone is being flown, but more importantly, where it is being operated from.”

He said the airport would pass information about disruptive drones to the police so that officers can “apprehend the operators who are acting in a criminal way”.

Knight added: “We were looking at this well before the Gatwick and Heathrow incidents.

“The airport industry has been looking at it and therefore we saw it as an emergent threat, and we have been speaking to the manufacturers of drone detection systems already.

“As you have seen from the Heathrow and Gatwick incidents, the threat is increasing, and obviously we want to reduce the disruption caused by such events.

“The key element of that will be to deploy systems such as we have been trialling at Southend but also work with the police and government to increase the powers and the changes in law that will prevent this happening in the first place.”

• The BBC has reported that flights were grounded at Newark international airport, New Jersey, after two drones were spotted flying nearby on Tuesday (January 23).

The report said the incident is now being investigated by US police and “will energise calls to develop and deploy technologies to block drone activity in the vicinity of airports”.

More: Airline pilots demand action after ‘drone sighting’ grounds Heathrow flights

Limited number of Gatwick flights resume after drone attack