The government ran a public consultation on a batch of new proposals from July 6 2018 to September 17 2018, which attracted 5061 responses. It revealed the outcome of consultation on January 7 2019, and there are some significant UK drone law updates to be aware of if you wish to avoid fines and potential prison sentences.

Considering the disruption caused by drones at Gatwick and Heathrow airports over recent weeks, it’s no surprise that the government has decided to extend the area around airports and runways in which drones are banned from being flown.

It will be illegal to fly a drone within 5km of an airport, up from 1km.

Furthermore, the government says: “The new restriction zone will include rectangular extensions from the end of runways measuring 5km long by 1km wide to better protect take-off and landing paths.”

From November 30 2019, drone operators will have to register their device with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and take an online safety test. Anyone who fails to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1000.

Police are also going to be given extra powers. Officers will be able to “enter and/or search premises, with a warrant, where there is reasonable suspicion that there is a drone and/or its associated components which the police reasonably suspects of having been involved in the commission of an offence”.

They’ll also be able to issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) up to £100 for minor drone-related offences, “as a way to immediately and effectively enforce as a deterrent to offenders and to reduce pressure on Magistrates’ Courts”.

A drone user could be slapped with an FPN for committing any of the following offences:

  • Not producing registration documentation, and/or proof of registration for drones between 250g and up to and including 20kg in mass, at the request of a police constable
  • Not producing evidence of any other relevant permissions required by legislation, for example if you are a commercial drone operator or have an exemption from the CAA from an ANO 2016 article
  • Not complying with a police officer when instructed to land a drone
  • Flying a drone without a valid acknowledgement of competency, or failure to provide evidence of meeting this competency requirement when requested

We’ve also known for some time that the government is pushing for work on geofencing technology to be brought forward. The tech is built into the drones themselves and uses GPS coordinates to stop the devices from entering specific zones, such as prison or airport airspace.

“The Home Office will also begin to test and evaluate the safe use of a range of counter-drone technology in the UK,” is the government’s official line at present.

“This crucial technology will detect drones from flying around sensitive sites, including airports and prisons, and develop a range of options to respond to drones, helping to prevent a repeat of incidents such as that recently experienced at Gatwick.”

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