Airport Infringements and New Airspace Laws- What can this mean for drone pilots?

In later 2018 a drone pilot caused untold disruption and mayhem at Gatwick airport. Flying around the airspace around the airport, the industrial drone caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled and left millions of passengers stranded over the Christmas period. With such a high profile case of drones being the reason for such a huge disruption to the public, the Civil Aviation Authority responded with a change of laws and regulations surrounding drone operation around airports and airfields.

These changes will have an impact on how drone pilots can work in and around airports. We have discussed the changes in this blog.

What is the law surrounding airports and airfields?

Before 13th March 2019 the law stated that drone and unmanned aircraft pilots could fly anywhere outside of the airfields existing aerodrome traffic zone. This area has a radius of either two or two and a half nautical miles and must be abided at all times. To fly a drone around this area, it was essential to be at least 1km away from the restricted zone. Any operator that wishes to operate within this boundary must have expressed permission from air traffic control at the airport or airfield in question or else your operation will be deemed illegal and you could face criminal charges.

How has the law changed?

Since the change of law in March 2019, the restricted zone surrounding airports has extended to include an extra 5km from the end of each of the runways at the airfield. This extension also applies a 1km threshold around each runway restriction area. Both the boundary restricted areas and new runway additions require that drones and unmanned aircrafts keep to a height that is upwards of 2000 feet above the airfield.

How will this affect drone pilots?

As the area surrounding airports is a controlled airspace, it has always been essential that anyone flying in that area is qualified and certified. The new bill gives police forces across the country the powers to tackle any unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft. This includes having the authority to call for the pilot to land the drone and it can be seized or you could face a hefty penalty charge.

Piloting licenses have always been an essential element of legal drone flight and our team at Blue Whale Media are fully trained, qualified and licensed. It is crucial that any drone pilot, either domestic or commercial, has the relevant training and possess a valid and up to date license.


As a certified and professional drone photography company, we keep up with the latest changes and updates to the law and find it is essential to ensure that our drone pilots are up to date with training. These law changes are perhaps a direct response to the drone incident at Gatwick airport, but they are a necessary change to ensure the safety of both drone pilots and airport staff and visitors.