UK drone laws tighten this week as new airport no-fly zones come into effect

Drone laws in the UK will significantly tighten this week, in response to the travel chaos caused by a UAV sighting at Gatwick Airport late last year.

From this Wednesday March 13, it will be illegal to fly a drone within a 3-mile radius of an airport in the UK. That’s up significantly from the previous 0.6-mile restrictions.

The government announced the changes last month in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Gatwick shutdown that stranded 140,000 passengers prior to Christmas.

When announcing the changes to the restricted airspace in February, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling emphasised the serious criminality of defying the new law, which may result in up to five years in prison.

Related: UK drone laws 2019

He said: “The law is clear that flying a drone near an airport is a serious criminal act. We’re now going even further and extending the no-fly zone to help keep our airports secure and our skies safe. Anyone flying their drone within the vicinity of an airport should know they are not only acting irresponsibly, but criminally, and could face imprisonment.”

The government said it would also deploy new stop-and-search powers in order to combat those suspected of using drones near to an airport.

The police are yet to charge anyone with the Gatwick incident, but is offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for the incident. The sightings of the drones responsible for the chaos were near to takeoff and landing zones, according to a BBC report in January.

Last month drone manufacturer DJI announced new geofencing tools to keep flights away from airports.

The new Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) 2.0 system is rolling out in 32 countries (including 13 that have not benefitted from the system before) and uses a bow-tie shaped design to replace the existing circular no-fly zones. The new design features specific designs for high–, medium-, and low-risk airports, with each offering enhanced warning zones for drone pilots.

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