The runway reopened after officials were assured that the new "military measures" in place meant it was safe for planes to take off and land.
"While we investigated, airfield movements were suspended," said a spokesperson for the airport. "This was a precautionary measure as safety remains our main priority,
"The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with the reassurance necessary that it is safe to reopen our airfield."
Sussex Police said they were "deploying significant resources to seek and locate the drone and its operator" but there were reports that the culprits were taunting officers by flying overhead while flashing their lights.
Officers said they had identified “a number of persons of interest” after there were more than 50 sightings of the craft in the 24 hours from 9pm on Wednesday, when Gatwick was first forced to close.
Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said investigators are keeping an open mind over the motive behind the drone attacks but are not treating it as a terrorist incident.
Mr Barry described the drone activity as "really high-end criminal behaviour". He said: "This is a really significant criminal offence. There are resources here at Gatwick Airport now to mitigate the threat of that and a lot of resources to bring the offender to justice."
It is believed that the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar, is one of the pieces of equipment being used to prevent further disruption.
Police are also prepared to blast the drones out of the sky with a shotgun or jam them with a hi-tech radar system.
A £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits is being offered by the Crimestoppers charity.
The latest drone activity meant another 108 arrivals were cancelled or diverted and 83 departures were aborted on Friday. Several flights were diverted to other airports around the UK.
Passengers have been advised to check with their airlines as to the status of their flight before travelling to Gatwick.
See below for our coverage of events as they happened:
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Police have not yet found the person or people behind the drone flights, Gatwick's chief operating officer has said.
Chris Woodroofe said the airport hoped to handle slightly less than 700 flights on Friday but admitted that depended on the absence of further drone sightings.
Some 120,000 passengers had been affected by the disruption he said.
Here is our story about the UK's second-busiest airport re-opening:
Gatwick Airport opens runway for 'limited number' of flightsGatwick Airport officials say the runway has reopened, allowing a "limited number" of scheduled flights to arrive and depart. Except for a brief window on Thursday morning, the runway has been closed since Wednesday night after repeated drone sightings on the airfield. According to aviation monitoring websites, the first plane to land at the airport for more than 33 hours
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Woodroofe refused to comment on the possibility of the airport awarding compensation to passengers affected by the Christmas chaos.
He added: "The issue from my perspective is that this has been a criminal act purposefully undertaken in order to cause this disruption and I very much hope we bring the perpetrator to justice."
Gatwick has warned there may still be delays and cancellations to flights on Friday and urged passengers to check details with their airlines.
Police have "a number of lines of enquiry" regarding the people thought to be behind the drone disruption, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, of Sussex Police, told the BBC, but he declined to give details.
The last confirmed drone sighting took place just before 10pm on Thursday, he said, adding: "We've made a lot of progress overnight."
The military is involved in protecting passenger plans at Gatwick from further drone incursions, Chris Grayling has said.
The transport secretary told the BBC's Breakfast programme that "there are a range of measures that are there today which will give passengers confidence they are safe".
Asked if the drone flights were terror-related, Mr Grayling said: "Well, it's a different kind of disruption. Certainly, there is no evidence that it is terror-related in the conventional sense, not linked, as far as we're aware, to an international terrorist group.
"But it's clearly a kind of disruptive activity we've not seen before. This kind of incident is unprecedented anywhere in the world. We're going to have to learn very quickly what's happened.
"I plan to convene discussions with other airports around the UK very quickly indeed so they know what's happened, they understand what lessons need to be learned, and we put in place every measure we possibly can to make sure this can't happen again."
Challenged on the Today programme over the length of time it has taken to put in place a series of anti-drone measures at Gatwick, Mr Grayling insisted the incursions were "unprecedented".
Pressed further on whether previous warnings had been properly heeded, he said: "It's also something for which there aren't simple solutions.
"People say, 'Can't you just shoot down the drone?' There is experience recently elsewhere in the world of literally thousands of machine gun bullets being used to try and bring down a drone, failing to do so.
"You can't just fire weapons haphazardly in what is a built-up area around the airport."
Police believe the drone flights could be a form of environmental protest.
Asst Ch Con Barry said: It's certainly something that we would consider. Yes, I would agree that's a possibility.
"At this stage we're certainly not linking it to terrorism, but obviously we keep an open mind and I can understand the perception.
The Gatwick Express train service has said tickets to or from Gatwick will also be valid for travel to Luton airport at no extra cost because of the drone disruption.
Similarly, passengers can travel on Southwestern Railway to Southampton Airport Parkway without paying extra. Anyone who needs a refund will not be charged an admin fee, Gatwick Express said.
Tickets from Thursday can still be used today, bosses said, and tickets with today's date can be used tomorrow.
Details on cancellations are coming in.
Some 126,000 passengers are due to travel on Friday, but 145 out of the scheduled 837 flights have already been cancelled as aircraft are out of position and the airport's operations are restricted to just a few departures and arrivals per hour.
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