What are the laws on flying drones? Gatwick Airport flights diverted after one reported close to runway

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Pilots have warned of a "disaster" unless drones are subjected to tougher regulation.

The warning from the British Airline Pilots' Association comes as the runway at Gatwick Airport was closed for parts of Sunday evening over fears for safety.

Four EasyJet flights were diverted and one British Airways service was sent to Bournemouth Airport following the closure, while other flights circled the West Sussex airport.

BALPA is calling for compulsory registration of drone users to allow police to track down people flying them irresponsibly.

Birmingham Airport

The union's flight safety specialist, Steve Landells, said: "Yet another incident at Gatwick involving drones shows that the threat of drones being flown near manned-aircraft must be addressed before we see a disaster.

"Drones can be great fun, and have huge commercial potential, but with a significant increase in near-misses in recent years it seems not everyone who is flying them either know or care about the rules that are in place for good reason.

"We believe a collision, particularly with a helicopter, has the potential be catastrophic."

He added that as the number of drones being sold takes off, new technology should be looked at to address safety concerns.

"These should include, amongst other things, geofencing as standard and a system whereby the drone transmits enough data for the police to locate the operator when it is flown in a dangerous manner," he said.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: "Due to reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 18.10 and 18.19, and again from 18.36 to 18.41, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

It is not the first time a drone is suspected of infringing on airspace near landing strips.

So, what are the laws?

What are the rules for flying drones in the UK?

Because the technology is still relatively new, it's perhaps unsurprising the rules are still evolving.

The CAA's (civil aviation authority) website has a page dedicated to drones which outlines the most important rules.

This is the basic Dronecode:

  • Keep your drone within your line of sight and at a maximum height of 400ft (122m)
  • Always fly your drone well away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields
  • If fitted with a camera, a drone must be flown at last 50m away from a person, vehicle, building or structure not owned or controlled by the pilot.
  • Camera-equipped drones must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert

The reason for choosing 400ft, according to the CAA, is because this is generally what is measured as the limit of normal, unaided sight.

So, what are the dangers?

Many drones are capable of flying much higher than the limit, so it’s easy to unwittingly break the law.

Aerial Motion Pictures have issued a warning ahead – and you should take their advice seriously.

Watch that below.

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Flying in your back garden is usually a bad idea because of limited space and the potential for crashing.

As well as this, your neighbours could also make a complaint – especially if your drone has an obvious camera.

Importantly, it's worth noting each flight is your responsibility, which means you are liable for any damage caused by your drone.

It’s worth checking if your home insurance covers this and, if not, get a dedicated policy.

Can I take my drone to my local park?

At the minute, there is nothing to stop you going and buying a drone and taking it out flying, as long as the drone weighs less than 20kg and you are not using it for commercial reasons.

But each and every park varies.

Some parks will have signage which explains what is and isn't permitted.

You might see a 'no model aircraft' sign, which also includes drones.

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