drone flying

Drone operators could get jail time for flying near airports

The government has laid out regulations governing the use of drones in the UK, including measures preventing drone operators from flying their unmanned aircraft near airports.

Anybody who wants to fly drones weighing at least 250g will need to be registered with a UK drone database managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Although the CAA had already included these guidelines in its ‘Drone Code’, they will now be enshrined into law.

In addition to creating a database, the new laws will ban drones from flying higher than 400ft (122m) and within 1km of airport boundaries. Following reports of drones coming close to colliding with aircraft, drone operators will also have to pass an online safety test before they can fly their drones.

Those found breaking the new drone safety laws could find themselves facing an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison, while non-registered and non-examined drone users could face fines of up to £1,000.

“We welcome the clarity that today’s announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields,” said Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick Airport COO.

“Drones open up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the travelling public.”

The number of near misses between conventional aircraft and drones has risen rapidly from just six during 2014 to 93 in 2017. It is hoped that the new laws will reduce the risk of damage to the windows and engines of aeroplanes and helicopters due to altercations with drones.

“We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun. Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies,” said Baroness Liz Sugg, the aviation minister, in a statement.

“These new laws will help ensure drones are used safely and responsibly.”

Following these regulations, a new Drones Bill will be presented this summer, giving the police powers to intervene on the spot if drones are used inappropriately.

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