The UK Government has announced it will move forward with plans to give police new powers to tackle drone misuse and abuse.
The new legislation will give police officers additional powers to land drones and require users to provide proper documentation.
Police will also have the power to search premises and seize drones – including any electronic data stored within the device – provided a serious offence is believed to have been committed.
Chaos ensued during the run-up to Christmas with repeated drone sightings grounding aircraft at Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport.
The disruption led to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights, ruining the holiday plans of around 140,000 passengers.
Extensive searches were carried out by police around Gatwick, but the device was never located. Two people were arrested and questioned over the incident but were released without charge.
The Home Office said it will begin to “test and evaluate” the use of counter-drone technology in the UK, which will include technology capable of detecting drones around sensitive sites, such as airports or prisons.
To prevent similar incidents to that recently experienced at Gatwick, exclusions zones around airports will be extended to 5km – an increase from the current 1km exclusion zones.
This will also include additional extensions at runway ends.
Read more: Using Drones in Scotland
Commenting on the announcement, Aviation Minister Liz Sugg said: “Drones have the potential to bring significant benefits and opportunities, but with the speed of technological advancement comes risk, and safety and security must be our top priorities.
“That’s why we are giving the police powers to deal with those using drone irresponsibly. Along with additional safety measures, these will help ensure the potential of this technology is harnessed in a responsible and safe way.”
Under new proposals, police services will be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences. Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a device or failing to provide their registration to operate a drone.
From the 30th of November, pilots operating drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will also be required to take an online competency test.