New legislation to extend the ‘no-fly zone’ for drones and model aircraft around UK airports comes into force today.

In February, the UK Government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that the new rule will expand the drone-exclusion zone and help better protect the UK’s airports from those misusing drones.

The new rules mean the ‘no-fly zone’ around airports has been extended by about 5km, and those violating this will now face a prison sentence of up to five years.

Operators will have to obtain a permit from the government before flying drones in the restricted area, according to the CAA.

In July 2018, a 1km drone-exclusion zone around airports and flight height restrictions of 400ft were introduced.

“Anyone flying their drone within the vicinity of an airport should know they are not only acting irresponsibly, but criminally.”

However, the aviation industry criticised the government after illegal drone flights near the airfield crippled operations at Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport.

Drone sightings near Gatwick Airport caused widespread disruption and led to the cancellation of approximately 1,000 flights over the Christmas period.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had 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 criminally, and could face imprisonment.”

In February, the government announced that work is under progress for a new Drones Bill, which will be introduced in the future. It will allow police officers to stop and search people suspected of using drones above 400ft or within 5km of an airport.