UK Police Get New Powers to Tackle Illegal Use of Drones

New legislation will give British police officers the power to search premises, and land and seize drones, and will also require users to produce the proper documentation.

The government is moving forward with plans to give police new powers to tackle drones misuse and abuse, with the publication of its response to the drones consultation on January 7.

Following over 5,000 responses to the consultation, new legislation will give police officers the additional power to land drones and require users to produce the proper documentation. The police will have the power to search premises and seize drones — including electronic data stored within the device — where a serious offence has been committed and a warrant is secured.

The Home Office will also begin to test and evaluate the safe use of a range of counter-drone technology in the UK. This technology will detect drones from flying around sensitive sites, including airports and prisons, and develop a range of options to respond to drones, helping to prevent a repeat of incidents such as that recently experienced at Gatwick Airport.

Gatwick was repeatedly forced to close between 19 and 21 December due to reported drone sightings, affecting about 1,000 flights. No arrests have been made in connection with the Gatwick incident since a local drone enthusiast and his partner were released without charge on December 23. The police investigation continues.

As a result of the Gatwick incident, the UK government is significantly extending the area around airports and runways in which drones are banned from being flown. This builds on changes to the law last year which made it illegal to fly a drone above 400 feet or within 1 kilometer of an airport.

The police will also be able to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor drone offences to ensure immediate and effective enforcement of vital rules. Fines of up to £100 could be given for offences such as failing to comply with a police officer when instructed to land a drone, or not showing their registration to operate a drone.

Kylie Bull has 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. She is an editor and contributor for Jane's by IHS Markit, a columnist for security and counter-terror publications, and a former managing editor for Homeland Security Today.

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