Laws around use of drones have become increasingly tight

Drones can be bought for less than £20 on the high street. But they can also pose serious hazards to aircraft.

A drone in flight
A drone in flight

A strike by a drone could break an aircraft’s windscreen or cause serious damage if sucked into jet engines, propellers or helicopter rotor blades, Government officials have warned.

There have not yet been any collisions between drones and aircraft in the UK, although at least seven such incidents have been logged worldwide.

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One Leeds trader who stocks drones says it is vital that they must be used correctly, safely and legally.

A drone in flight

Andrew Briggs, of The Model Shop, in Crossgates, Leeds, said sales of drones had dropped dramatically over the last year.

He said: “A couple of years ago we were selling hundreds of drones. Now they seem to be unpopular after the initial craze and we don’t sell many at all. People are buying boats and aeroplanes.

“Drones must always be used correctly and safely according to laws. Don’t forget they can produce great pictures and provide valuable footage for the emergency services when dealing with crowds or at an incident, for example.”

Laws around the use of drones are becoming increasingly tight, as the devices gain in popularity and near-misses with aircraft become more frequent.

Graphic of near misses between drones and aircraft in the UK

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On July 30, 2018, it also became against the law to fly a drone above 400ft (120m) or within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary.

Anyone caught doing so also faces a £2,500 fine.

From November 30, 2019, all owners of drones weighing 250g or more will also have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and drone pilots will have to take an online safety test.

Failure to comply could see people fined £1,000.

General aviation rules also apply to drone pilots.

And intentionally using a drone to commit an act of violence at an international airport could mean life imprisonment.

In January 2019, the Government announced it would be bringing forward a draft Drones Bill which could give the police powers to issue on-the-spot fines for minor drone offences.

The Government also plans to widen the restrictions around airports to about 5km.

Of course, laws could be ineffective against those who seek to cause deliberate disruption - or even danger - to flights.

So the Home Office has said it is also pushing forward with the testing and evaluation of technology to detect and combat the malicious and illegal use of drones to protect airports and other sensitive national infrastructure.