Britain will impose a 5 kilometre (3.1 mile) drone exclusion zone around its runways as the government responds to illegal incursions that closed London Gatwick airport for 36 hours in December, disrupting travel for more than 120,000 people.
The measures, taking effect March 13, extend the current 1-kilometre no-fly zone for unmanned and model aircraft, the Department for Transport said in a statement Wednesday. Police will also gain new stop-and-search powers to help clamp down on violations.
“The law is clear that flying a drone near an airport is a serious criminal act,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in the release. “We’re now going even further and extending the no-fly zone to help keep our airports secure.” Recklessly endangering an aircraft can mean a five-year prison term, rising to a potential life sentence for intentional acts of violence.
The government is drawing up a Drones Bill to grant police additional powers, such as the right to access electronic data stored on a drone without the need for a search warrant. Operators of drones weighing more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) must register as of Nov. 30 and take an online competency test. The Home Office, meanwhile, is reviewing its approach to countering the malicious use of drones to protect critical infrastructure, including testing technology to disrupt their operation.