UK police given more power to tackle drone use around airports

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The UK Government is giving police new powers to tackle drones misuse and abuse which includes giving officers the power to seize drones around airports. (7 January).

Police will now have the power to search premises and seize drones — including electronic data stored within the device — where a serious offence has been committed and a warrant is secured.

They come after drone sightings at Gatwick, the UK’s second-busiest airport, led to the cancellation of 1,000 flights, wrecking the flights of 140,000 passengers over a 36-hour period before Christmas. Police searched dozens of possible launch sites to no avail and were unable to locate the drones.

Exclusion zones around airports will be extended and police will have new powers to deal with the illegal use of drones. Drones will have to stay further away from airports under new rules.

Airport exclusion zones will be extended to about 5km (three miles) from the current 1km, with additional extensions at runway ends. Drone users can be fined or even jailed if they fly a drone within these zones.

Also, operators of drones weighting between 250g and 20kg will have to register and take an online drone pilot competency test from 30 November.

The Home Office will also begin to test and evaluate the safe use of a range of counter-drone technology in the UK. This technology will detect drones from flying around sensitive sites, including airports and prisons, and develop a range of options to respond to drones, helping to prevent a repeat of incidents such as that recently experienced at Gatwick Airport.

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling spoke in the House of Commons last night. He said the problems at Gatwick were solved by “some smart and innovative use of new technology” which he would not go into detail about due to “security reasons”.

He said the disruption caused by drones to flights at Gatwick last month was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal”.

Aviation Minister, Liz Sugg said: “Drones have the potential to bring significant benefits and opportunities, but with the speed of technological advancement comes risk, and safety and security must be our top priorities.

“That’s why we are giving the police powers to deal with those using drones irresponsibly. Along with additional safety measures these will help ensure the potential of this technology is harnessed in a responsible and safe way.

“The police will also be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences to ensure immediate and effective enforcement of vital rules. Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.”