Pilots Welcome New Airport Drone Zones

Pilots have welcomed a decision by the UK Government to extend no-fly zones around airports

From March 13 it will be illegal to fly a drone within 5km of an airport. The current exclusion zone is just 1km.

It follows major disruption at Gatwick Airport in December when drones were sighted near the runway. As a result, more than 1,000 flights were cancelled affecting the travel plans of 140,000 people.

Sussex Police have still not found the perpetrators despite a reward of £50,000 for public information.

In January a drone sighting at Heathrow also disrupted some flights.

Head of Flight safety at the British Airline Pilots’ Association Dr Rob Hunter said: “This increase is what we’ve been calling for in order to ensure there is a safe separation between commercial aircraft and legal drone operations. This, along with the introduction of suitable detection measures, represents a significant improvement to the safety of manned aircraft around airports.”

But he said pilots remain concerned for helicopters which operate at low levels away from the protected zone around airports and in areas where drones are frequently flown.

“We hope the Department for Transport will take a similar safety-first approach to looking at this aspect,” he said.

In the new plans, the Government also wants to give police new stop and search powers.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The law is clear that flying a drone near an airport is a serious criminal act.

“We’re now going even further and extending the no-fly zone to help keep our airports secure and our skies safe.

“Anyone flying their drone within the vicinity of an airport should know they are not only acting irresponsibly, but criminally, and could face imprisonment.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Extending stop and search to include drones will help police tackle disruption like the recent misery we saw at UK airports, when travel was ruined for thousands of innocent passengers, and bring those responsible to justice.

“Police are clear that stop and search is one of the most powerful tools they have to target and disrupt crime and I remain committed to giving them all the support they need to protect the public.”