Drone laws tighten as government tries to avoid repeat of Gatwick disruption

The laws around drones are being tightened as the government has announced new powers that will be given to police to tackle illegal drone use.

This comes after travel in December was disrupted severely by alleged drone activity around Gatwick airport that left thousands of people disrupted — or worse — in the chaos. Several flights were cancelled, with some suspended for up to 36 hours while things were worked out. Despite the recent events, this is a follow-up to a consultation period about the usage of drones that started in July.

The area around airports where drones are banned from flying will be extended, while operators of drones between 250g and 20kG will need to be registered from November 30th of this year.

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In addition, there will be expanded technology used to detect and repel drones from restricted flying areas like prisons and airports, in addition to police being given the ability to search premises and seize drones when it is believed that a serious crime has been committed providing they have a warrant. Smaller drone crimes could see police handing out fixed penalty notices, with an example given that failing to comply with an officer when instructed to land a drone. That doozy could land you with a £100 fine.

There isn’t a lot of information given here with regards to the actual technology that the government will be using to counter drones moving forwards, but that to me is the interesting thing. Drone registration makes sense, but many of these enhanced powers don’t make a lot of sense if the government don’t have a solid way to stop drones if they’re causing an active nuisance. There were more than 100 aircraft incidents involving drones last year, while there has also been an increase in the use of drones to smuggle items into UK prisons.

The drone flight over Gatwick was already illegal as last year the government made it illegal to fly a drone above 400ft or within 1km of an airport. However, this is now going to be extended to the current Air Traffic Zone around airports, so it will now be illegal to fly within a 5km radius of an airport.

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