Drones and similar model aircraft will be banned from flying within a five kilometre radius from airport runways following the havoc they wreaked at the Gatwick and Heathrow runways last year.
The extended "no-fly zone" for drones and similar aircraft has been extended from one kilometre to five kilometres following recent episodes of disruption. Over Christmas, Gatwick was forced to close its runway for three days because a drone flying near its runway was deemed a threat to passenger safety.
The new laws, which will come into force next month, follow on from rules last year that prevent drones from flying above 400 feet and within one kilometre of airport boundaries. From November, owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more now also have to register their device with the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.
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As part of the sweeping new laws police will be given powers to stop and search those who are suspected of using drones maliciously and to access electronic data stored on a drone with a warrant.
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 added: “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.”
Earlier this year Gatwick and Heathrow admitted they were spending millions of pounds on anti-drone technology and have invested in military-grade equipment designed to jam drone signals.