Britain extends drone exclusion zone around airports, gives police new powers

Britain will extend a drone exclusion zone five-fold and give police new powers against lawbreaking operators, the government said on Monday, after sightings last month paralyzed the nation's second busiest airport.

Nation's 2nd busiest airport was forced to cancel 1,000 flights before Christmas due to drone sightings

An arrivals board at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity on Dec. 21, 2018. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Britain will extend a drone exclusion zone five-fold and give police new powers against lawbreaking operators, the government said on Monday, after sightings last month paralyzed the nation's second busiest airport.

The changes, announced in Parliament by Transport Minister Chris Grayling, followed pre-Christmas disruption at Gatwick Airport where drone flyovers led to 1,000 flight cancellations affecting 140,000 passengers.

The military was called in to help.

"The disruption caused by drones to flights at Gatwick Airport last month was deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal," Grayling told Parliament.

Police will have new powers to pursue lawbreaking drone operators. (Gatwick Airport)

The Ministry of Defence remained on standby to deal with any further problems at Gatwick or any other airport, he added.

The government said the drone exclusion zone around airports would be extended to about five kilometres — with additional extensions at runway ends — from one kilometre now.

Grayling said the government would also begin testing the use of counter-drone technology as part of its response to a consultation begun before December's disruption.