New laws introduced today (30 May 2018) restrict all drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1 kilometre of airport boundaries, the Department for Transport has announced.
The news follows a year-on-year increase in reports of drone incidents with aircraft – 89 in 2017 - and the measures are designed to reduce the possibility of damage to planes and helicopters. The changes come into effect on 30 July 2018.
Under the new laws, the owners of drones, which weigh 250 grams or more, must register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and drone pilots must take an online safety test. These requirements will come into force on 30 November 2019.
Drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions face an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
Users who fail to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000.
The changes were made via an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016.
In addition, a draft Drones Bill will be published this summer the Department for Transport said, which will give police more powers to intervene on the spot if drones are being used inappropriately.
Drone operators will also eventually be required to use apps – so they can access the information needed to make sure any planned flight can be made safely and legally.
Value of drones
PwC has predicted the drone industry could be worth £42bn in the UK by 2030.
Drones play a key part in transport and infrastructure, helping with inspections of assets including bridges, railways and power stations. The CAA and airports will have the power to make exceptions to these restrictions in specific circumstances.
Baroness Sugg, aviation minister, said the industry was experiencing steep growth and 'we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies'.
Chris Woodroofe, chief operating officer, Gatwick Airport, said: '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.
'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 Government and the CAA is working to make sure the regulations do not impact model aircraft flying associations.