The UK Government is today putting into place new legislation that will extend no-fly zones around airports to 5km. There is also a promise to impose major penalties for those who break the law.
The government decided to bring in the changes before the new Drones Bill has been finalized, in part as a reaction to the events at Gatwick airport before Christmas.
Penalties for breaking the law on misusing drones range from fines to life imprisonment if the device is intentionally used to cause violence.
Drone users can only fly within the restriction zones if they have the correct permission from air traffic control or the airport.
UK ministers to meet with manufacturers
According to a government statement, Aviation Minister Liz Sugg will meet with “global leading drone manufacturers to discuss how to tackle criminal drone use” later this month.
The statement says that “they are expected to discuss a range of topics including counter-drone technology and software – such as ‘geofencing’ – that could be built into drones at the point of manufacture.”
Presumably, that conversation will be when government officials realise geofencing technology is already widely in place and probably preventing countless illegal incursions every day.
Despite publishing official statements that don’t appear to say much at all, Aviation Minister Liz Sugg has made a point of noting that the majority of drone pilots are operating responsibly.
“Flying drones illegally puts others at risk both in the air and on the ground, so it’s vital they are used safely. The majority of people using drones want to do so responsibly, so we have expanded a national campaign to ensure they know the rules – and the penalties,” she said.
“The new Drones Bill, which is currently being drafted, will give new powers to the police to clamp down on those misusing drones and other small unmanned aircraft – including the power to access electronic data stored on a drone with a warrant. It will also include stop and search powers for drone users near aerodromes.”
UK Home Office looking at counter drone options
The statement also confirmed that the Home Office is reviewing the UK’s approach to countering the malicious use of drones, “and will consider how best to protect the full range of the UK’s critical national infrastructure – including testing and evaluating technology to counter drones.”
Since the farce at Gatwick airport and more recent disruptions at London Heathrow, it seems to be a question of when, not if, a similar incident will happen again.