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Government to hand police new powers to tackle illegal use of drones

The Government has announced plans to hand police new powers to deal with the illegal use of drones.

In a ministerial statement on the Government’s response to a Department for Transport consultation, Taking flight: the future of drones in the UK, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the new powers would include allowing the police to request evidence from drone users where there is reasonable suspicion of an offence being committed, as well as enabling the police to issue fixed penalty notices for minor drone offences.

“Those new powers will help to ensure effective enforcement of the rules. They will provide an immediate deterrent to those who might misuse drones or attempt to break the law,” the minister argued.

Grayling said that the DfT had been working closely with the Home Office on the legislative clauses that would deliver these changes.

“It is of course crucial that our national infrastructure, including airports and other sites such as prisons and energy plants, are also adequately protected to prevent incidents such as that at Gatwick,” he said, adding: “We must also ensure that the most up-to-date technology is available to detect, track and potentially disrupt drones that are being used illegally, so we have also consulted on the further use of counter-drone technology.”

The minister said these consultation responses would now be used by the Home Office to develop an appropriate means of using that technology in the UK.

Grayling said the DfT had listened to concerns expressed by airports and airlines and would introduce additional protections around airports, with a particular focus on protected exclusion zones from runway ends, alongside increasing the current aerodrome traffic zone restrictions around airports. Drone pilots wishing to fly within these zones must do so only with permission from the aerodrome air traffic control, the minister said.

The Government will amend the Air Navigation Order 2016 to implement these changes.

Grayling concluded: “There is no question but that lessons have to be learned from what happened at Gatwick. Passengers have to be able to travel without fear of their trips being disrupted by malicious drone use. Airports must be prepared to deal with incidents of this type, and the police need the proper powers to deal with drone offences. We must also be ready to harness the opportunities and benefits that the safe use of drones can bring. The measures I have announced today in response to the consultation will take us forward on that front.”