Government to extend drone exclusion zone

Written by Hannah McGrath

Police are to be given new legal powers to combat illegal drone use after flights were suspended for two days last month at Gatwick airport due to drone sightings over the runway, resulting in holiday travel chaos.

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has said that the government is to extend the drone exclusion zone around UK airports to around five kilometres, including extensions for runways, up from the 1km zone which currently applies.

Grayling also announced the government would test new counter-drone technology to be deployed around sites such as airports and prisons as part of its response to a government consultation started before 1,000 flights were cancelled and paralysed activities at Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, in December.

Following the major consultation held in July last year, owners of drones between 250g and 20kg will need to register their device from 30 November onwards.

Those joining the drone register will also need to take an online competency test ensuring they are familiar with the legal rules applying to drone usage.

Under legislation due to be introduced, the police will also have powers to land drones and request documentation from drone users.

Minor offences related to drone use will incur fixed-penalty notices of up to £100, while more serious offences which endanger the safety of an aircraft can result in more than five years in prison.

"The disruption caused by drones to flights at Gatwick Airport last month was deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal," Grayling said in a statement to the House of Commons.