Wednesday, October 23, 2019

New Anti-Aerial Drone Bill Introduced to Protect UK Airspace

Prevarication by Government Led to Gatwick attacks
Shipping News Feature

UK – The UK government has introduced the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to modernise airspace and tackle illegal use of unmanned aircraft. The Department for Transport (DfT) initially planned to regulate drone usage last year under the Grayling era but plans were halted in favour of Brexit preparations. Consequently, airports were left vulnerable to threats that drones pose, which ultimately lead to the disruption at Gatwick Airport in December 2018.

The DfT says that this bill will grant the Transport Secretary new powers to ensure that airports modernise their airspace, and fine those that don’t implement changes quickly enough.

The bill will also hand police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. This includes giving police the ability to require a person to land an unmanned aircraft, issue fixed penalty notices for certain offences and introduce new stop and search powers where particular offences involving an unmanned aircraft have been committed.

The legislation is a key part of the government’s new strategy for drones, which it says will ensure individuals, businesses and emergency services in the UK can continue to harness the economic and social benefits of the unmanned craft, while cracking down on misuse and disruption.

The use of unmanned aircraft has grown significantly in recent years and the industry is expected to contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030, with more than 76,000 commercial and public sector drones expected to be in use by this date. However, this also increases the risks of malicious use. Latest statistics show there were 168 police recorded drone incidents in England and Wales in 2018, and 165 drones were recovered at prisons in 2016 and 2017. Transport Minister Baroness Vere said:

“Unmanned aircraft, including drones, could transform how we move people and goods, boost our economy and even save lives. Unfortunately, they can be, and have been, used recklessly at airports and in our skies.

“The UK has been at the forefront in tackling the malicious use of unmanned aircraft. This strategy, alongside existing and planned legislation, will let us tap into the benefits of this technology while helping keep people safe both in the air and on the ground.”

The strategy also includes:

  • Developing a new mobile counter-drone unit to be deployed to drone-related incidents and major events across the UK
  • A new national standard for police recording of illegal drone activity to help build a picture of the drone threat
  • National guidance for police to assist them during malicious drone incidents
  • The government’s ongoing work with industry to research and test the latest counter drone equipment so that police across the country are able to respond to threats – building on the work already done across government
  • Over the next 3 years, the government will work with partners to compile a catalogue of approved counter-drone technology to assure police and the owners and operators of critical national infrastructure sites that they are investing in the most effective and appropriate technology
  • A government communications campaign to educate the general public and continue to encourage safe drone use
  • Earlier this year it was announced that from 30 November 2019, every operator of a drone weighing more than 250g will need to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and all remote pilots will have to have passed an online competency test