The drone no-fly zones around UK airports is set to be extended by the UK authorities, the government said in the morning of Wednesday, February 20th. The change in the law is a direct result of the disruption caused by repeated sightings of drones in and around London Gatwick Airports airspace during December 2018. Thousands of flights were cancelled and hundreds of thousands of passengers saw their pre-Christmas travel plans in chaos as the airport was forced to close for more than 32 hours.
According to the UK Government, from March 13th it will be illegal to fly a drone within three miles – 5 kilometres of an airport. The UK’s Transport Secretary Chris Grayling 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.”
In the UK the current law stipulates it is already illegal to fly a drone above 400ft / 121.9 metres or within 1kilometre of an airport boundary, which could leave offenders who endanger aircraft facing a prison sentence of up to five years.
The UK’s government has also stated new stop and search powers would be introduced in the government’s new Drones Bill, which would also allow police forces to access electronic data stored on a drone. The UK’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid said, “Extending stop and search to include drones will help police tackle disruption like the recent misery we saw at UK airports when travel was ruined for thousands of innocent passengers, and bring those responsible to justice.
“Police are clear that stop and search is one of the most powerful tools they have to target and disrupt crime and I remain committed to giving them all the support they need to protect the public.”