UK drone exclusion zones around airports to be extended
18 / 01 / 2019
UK drone exclusion zones around runways and airports are to be extended by the government as part of tougher legislation to counter illegal use of remotely controlled drones.
Flights at London-Gatwick airport were severely disrupted for two days in December 2018 due to a criminal invasion of airspace by drones around the runway and airport buildings.
The government will introduce additional 5km long by 1km width exclusion zones from runway ends, alongside an increase to the airport restriction out to the current Aerodrome Traffic Zone around airports (approximately a 5km radius circle).
Drone pilots wishing to fly within these zones must only do so with permission from the aerodrome Air Traffic Control.
The proposed measures were announced as the UK government published its response to a consultation document, Taking Flight: The Future of Drones in the UK, which received replies from more than 5,000 respondents.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg, writing a foreword to the document, said: “Whilst increasing the restriction zone would not prevent a deliberate incident, it is important that proportionate measures are in place to help protect all arriving and departing aircraft using our aerodromes and avoid potential conflict with legitimate drone activity."
The minister acknowledged that drones are already being used to great effect by the emergency and search and rescue services and to reduce risks to people working in hazardous sectors such as the oil and gas industry.
Said Baroness Sugg: “But the recent disruption to Gatwick airport operations, affecting tens of thousands of passengers in the run up to Christmas, was a stark example of why continued action is required to make sure drones are used safely and securely in the UK.
“The government has already acted to regulate this new sector. It is an offence to endanger aircraft, drone pilots must not fly their drones near people or property, and drones have to be kept within visual line of sight.”
She continued: “We have been working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which has been running its long standing ‘Dronesafe’ campaign and ‘Dronecode’ guide to help to raise awareness amongst the general public of these rules and regulations. Commercial users of drones are able to operate drones outside of these rules – but only once granted CAA permission to do so on the basis of meeting strict safety conditions.”
The UK government is also working with manufacturers to introduce new technologies, including geo-fencing, where a drone can be automatically prevented from flying within protected areas through in-built software, and “electronic conspicuity,” which will allow the automatic identification of all airspace users, including drones.