What are the laws on drones? Everything you need to know on where they can and can't fly

Gatwick Airport was forced to close its runway after reports of drones flying overhead.

Some ten thousand people had their Christmas travel plans disrupted by the closure, which saw flights in and out of the UK’s second busiest airport suspended on Wednesday night.

Here’s everything you need to know about drones and where they can and can’t fly.

What are the restrictions around flying drones near airports?

New laws that came into force earlier this year ban all drones from flying above 400ft and within 1km of airport boundaries.

Flouting the height and boundary restrictions could incur an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

Thousands of passengers’ Christmas travel plans were delayed after Gatwick had to close a runway (Picture: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

What about other laws?

Laws introduced to the Commons in May mean people flying drones which weigh 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Drone pilots will be required to take an online safety test under the new laws, with the requirements set to come into force in November next year.

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In July, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it was considering introducing an age restriction, banning children from owning drones weighing at least 250g.

It also said it was looking into giving police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £300 for misuse and the ability to seize drones being used irresponsibly.

Have there been any incidents involving drones at airports in the past?

According to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), there have already been 117 near misses between manned aircraft and drones up until November this year, compared to 93 for the whole of 2017.

Research funded by the DfT found that a drone weighing 400g could smash a helicopter windscreen, and one weighing 2kg could critically damage an airliner’s windscreen.

This is not the first time an incident involving drones has been reported at London Gatwick. In October, a drone reportedly “put 130 lives at risk” after nearly hitting an aircraft approaching the airport.

Also in October, a drone collided with a commercial aircraft as it was approaching to land in Canada but it managed to land safely.

Flights at Gatwick were cancelled, diverted and delayed after drones were spotted over the airfield (Picture: Thomas Hornall/PA via AP)

How can drone users make sure they keep everyone safe?

Balpa’s advice is for drone users to make sure they know the rules to make sure they stay safe.

Dr Rob Hunter, head of flight safety, said: “Even two kilograms of metal and plastic, including the battery, hitting an aircraft windscreen or engine or a helicopter tail rotor, could be catastrophic.

“People who buy these devices need to make sure that they know the rules and stick to them, so they don’t put anyone’s life in danger.

“Pilots don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun but if you are going to use drones the message is clear: Know the laws or expect serious consequences.

“Before taking to the air have a really good think about where you are, keep your drone in sight, consider what aircraft might be flying about and keep clear – it is your responsibility.”