The Government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have announced a new partnership with popular retailer Jessops as part of a national campaign orchestrated to increase public awareness of the rules around flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, more commonly known as drones. Working with the CAA, the Government is dialling up a campaign to help educate the public about responsible drone use, including issuing a digital toolkit to airports to help them raise awareness of the new rules coming into play.
Following on from new laws last year restricting the use of drones and bringing forward a new drone users’ register, the Government has also announced new legislation to extend the ‘no-fly’ zone around airports, banning drones from flying within 5 km of runways. The new exclusion zone will be increased by several kilometres, including banning drone flight within 5 km of runway ends. The enlarged zone will better protect the UK’s airports from those misusing drones and comes into force on 13 March.
Work to progress a new Drones Bill is also underway, with the Bill to be introduced in due course. It will give police officers powers to Stop and Search individuals suspected of using drones maliciously above 400 ft or within 5 km of an airport — helping them to tackle disruption such as that seen at Gatwick Airport last December.
The Bill will also afford additional new powers to the police to clamp down on those misusing drones and other small unmanned aircraft, including the power 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. We are also working to raise awareness of the rules in place. Anyone flying their drone within the vicinity of an airport should know they are not only acting irresponsibly, but also criminally, and could face imprisonment.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: “Extending Stop and Search to include drones will help the 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. The police service is clear that Stop and Search is one of the most powerful tools it possesses to target and disrupt crime. I remain committed to giving the police all the support they need to protect the public.”
Responsibility placed on end users
Ian Savage, head of retail and training at Jessops, observed: “Drones are one of the most exciting ways of capturing stunning aerial photos and videos, and with prices more affordable than ever they are within reach of any budding photographer and videographer. Many are intuitive and simple to operate, making them ideal for beginners, while the more sophisticated models now offer features such as full manual control of the camera and stunning 4 K, 60 fps video that helps advanced photographers take their shots to the next level. However, along with the pleasure drones bring comes a responsibility for the user to ensure they are flying their drone safely and legally. As one of the leading drone retailers, Jessops is committed to ensuring it communicates the new laws to all of our customers. We will be doing this through extensive training from our dedicated drone specialists Connor Keenan and Jon Dick.”
Tim Johnson, policy director at the CAA, concluded: “It’s illegal to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment. Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe.”
The Home Office is also reviewing the UK’s approach to countering the malicious use of drones, and will consider how best to protect the full range of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure — including testing and evaluating technology to counter drones.
Extension of Stop and Search
Further, the Home Office will also extend Stop and Search to people suspected of carrying corrosives substances in a public place, which will help in the prevention of acid attacks. Currently, individuals must be suspected of intent to cause injury. The move will enable police officers to effectively enforce a new offence of carrying corrosives in a public place, which is passing through Parliament in the Offensive Weapons Bill.
The proposal to extend Stop and Search was widely supported during a public consultation which shows that 90% of respondents, including senior police officers, back the proposed change.
“Anyone who carries acid to maim and disfigure others is a coward who deserves to face the full force of the law,” stated Sajid Javid. “That is why we are giving police officers greater powers to help bring them to justice and protect the public from their sickening crimes, which can leave victims’ with life-changing injuries.”
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, Stop and Search lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, explained: “The police service welcomes changes designed to widen officers’ ability to Stop and Search those who would seek to cause serious harm using corrosive substances. Identifying and disrupting those individuals through the controlled use of Stop and Search powers is an important way in which we can keep the public safe. As with the range of Stop and Search powers currently available to police officers, chief constables will be keen to ensure that these powers are used correctly in a legitimate, proportionate and considerate way.”