FILE PHOTO: An airplane takes off at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
LONDON (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 the 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 drafted 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.
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 5 km (3 miles) — with additional extensions at runway ends — from 1 km 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.
Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Cawthorne