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Police launch drones crackdown

Too close for
comfort: A drone flies
with a plane visible
behind it PICTURE: PA

POLICE are to be given more power to crack down on illegal drones in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Christmas chaos at Gatwick.

A mobile ‘counter-drone’ unit equipped with technology to track down and interfere with the devices will be set up to respond to incidents across the UK. The move could also help tackle the use of drones to send drugs, weapons and phones into jails.

Drone sightings at Gatwick in December caused around 1,000 flights to be cancelled or diverted over 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers in the run-up to Christmas. A number of other airports, including Heathrow, have had to suspend flights due to drone activity this year.

The ideas are part of a government plan to ‘deter, detect and disrupt the misuse of drones’, the Home Office said.

The police powers will be set out in a bill announced in the Queen’s Speech and is due to be presented to parliament. Other pledges are set out in a counter-drone strategy.

Police recorded 168 drone incidents in England and Wales last year and 165 drones were found in jails in 2016 and 2017. There were 125 near-misses with planes in 2018, the Airprox Board said.

The drone industry is expected to add £42billion more to the UK economy by 2030, with more than 76,000 drones in use.