Ministers hand police fresh powers to tackle drones following Gatwick chaos

Posted On: 
8th January 2019

Police have been handed greater powers to tackle the misuse of drones following the chaos at Gatwick Airport in the run-up to Christmas.

Passengers stranded queue for information at Gatwick airport which has been closed after drones were spotted over the airfield in December
PA Images

Around 1,000 flights were cancelled at Britain’s second busiest hub from 19 to 21 December after several drone sightings.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling last night announced a series of changes, including extending the exclusion zone around airports from one kilometre to five kilometres, with additional extensions at the end of runways.

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Furthermore from November those operating a drone will be forced to register and take an online test to prove their ability to safely fly them. 

The new rules will also allow police officers to dish out fines of up to £100 for offences such as refusing to land a drone when requested or failing to prove valid registration to operate one.

No arrests have yet been made over the Gatwick incident since a local couple were released without charge on 23 December.

Mr Grayling told MPs yesterday that the disruption caused by drones to flights at the airport last month was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, and illegal".

“When caught, those responsible should face the maximum possible custodial sentence…” he said.

“This incident was a stark example of why we must continue to ensure that drones are used safely and securely.

“The Gatwick incident has reinforced the fact it is crucial our regulatory and enforcement must keep pace with rapid technological change.”

He added: “I am clear the government is taking action to ensure that passengers have confidence their journeys will not be disrupted in future, aircraft can safely use our key transport hubs and criminals misusing drones can be brought to justice.”

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald criticised the action, which he said “only serves to highlight the damage his dithering and delaying has caused".

“The Government’s approach to drones has been chaotic and the industry clearly has no faith in his ability to deal with serious incidents,” he said.