New drone rules would not have prevented Gatwick incident

An expert at the University on the legal issues surrounding drones says it is unlikely new government rules on flying exclusion zones would have prevented the Gatwick drone incursion last December.

Although Dr Alan McKenna, of the University’s Kent Law School, has welcomed the new moves (announced 20 February), he says increased police stop and search powers add little to existing laws. His own research shows that drone related calls in 2018 to police forces across the country, whilst increasing on 2017, have shown a slowdown.

He comments: ‘The new drone regulations announced today focus on widening the existing drone flying exclusion zone around airports, and the provision of additional police powers to combat drone misuse.

‘Given the nature of the still unresolved drone incursion at Gatwick in December, it is unlikely that the widening of the exclusion zone would have prevented that particular incident. It will mean, however, that drones programmed with geo-fencing software to prevent incursions around sensitive sites will no longer be able physically to fly as close to airports as they had previously done.

‘The increased police stop and search powers arguably add little to existing laws already available to the police, but might provide greater clarity in the use of such powers. In fact, today’s announcement comes as my new research on the latest data on drone related calls in 2018 to police forces across the country show a slowdown, with some forces receiving fewer calls than in 2017.’

Dr McKenna has been an expert participant in a Drone Public Dialogue event organised on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and Department of Transport used to help develop Government drone policies. He is also a member of Kent Police’s Drone Development Board.

See his new research on drone-related calls to police here.

The University’s Press Office provides the media with expert comments in response to topical news events. Colleagues who would like to learn more about how to contribute their expertise or how the service works should contact the Press Office on 3985 or pressoffice@kent.ac.uk