British police get extra powers to control drones after sightings shut down airport

  • London’s Gatwick was virtually closed for three days over the Christmas holidays due to drone sightings, stranding tens of thousands of travellers
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 5:54pm

Drone exclusion zones around British airports will be extended and operators made to register under new rules announced after drone sightings wrought havoc at London’s Gatwick in the run-up to Christmas.

Police will also be allowed to fine users up to £100 (US$128) for failing to comply when instructed to land a drone, or not showing registration to operate a drone.

The Home Office will also begin to test and evaluate the use of counter-drone technology at airports and prisons after Gatwick and Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, announced they were investing millions of pounds in such equipment.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told parliament on Monday that disruption to flights at Gatwick – the country’s second biggest hub – between December 19 and 21 was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal”.

Tens of thousands of passengers were affected and those responsible for the disruption have not been identified.

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The exclusion zone around airports is currently 1km (about half a mile) and this will be extended to 5km under the plan announced late on Monday.

From November 30 this year, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will also have to register and taken an online pilot competency test.