Britain to extend drone no-fly zone around airports after Gatwick chaos

An airplane takes off at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, on Dec 21, 2018.
An airplane takes off at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, on Dec 21, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain will extend a drone exclusion zone and give police new powers against lawbreaking operators, the government has said, after sightings last month paralysed the nation's second-busiest airport in the run-up to Christmas.

The government said the drone exclusion zone around airports would be extended to about 5km, with additional extensions at runway ends, from the current 1km.

Police will also be allowed to fine drone operators up to £100 (S$173) for failing to comply when instructed to land a device or not showing registration to fly 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 between Dec 19 and 21 was "deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal".

The pre-Christmas disruption at the airport led to 1,000 flight cancellations affecting 140,000 passengers.

The Ministry of Defence remained on standby to deal with any further problems at Gatwick or any other airport, said Mr Grayling.

 
 

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

The exclusion zone around British airports is currently 1km and will be extended to 5km under the plan announced late on Monday.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Britain to extend drone no-fly zone around airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe