A mobile “counter-drone” unit equipped with technology to track down and interfere with the devices is to be set up to respond to incidents across the UK, amid growing concern about the threat to airports.
The idea is part of a Government plan to “deter, detect and disrupt the misuse of drones”, the Home Office said.
New police powers will be set out in the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech and is due to be presented to Parliament, while other pledges have been set out in a counter-drone strategy.
A document setting out the plan said: “Our aim will be to stop malicious and illegal drone use as early as possible, ideally before a drone is used in a crime.
“The Government will consider what further product standards or restrictions within the drone sector could reduce risks associated with the misuse of drones without disproportionately affecting legitimate users, setting new international standards.”
Work would be carried out with behavioural scientists, law enforcement, and “at-risk” sites to find the best ways of deterring people from using drones maliciously, the strategy said, adding:
“We will encourage the public to report instances of drone misuse and equate wider vigilance campaigns with suspicious drone use, as much as other terrorist or criminal activity.
“By better publicising prosecutions for drone offences we will make it harder for people to claim ignorance when prosecuted.”
International design standards for manufacturers to fit drones with safety features will also be set.
The unmanned aircraft industry is expected to contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030, with more than 76,000 drones expected to be in use by this date, according to the Home Office.
But the UK Airprox Board said there were 125 near-misses between drones and aircraft reported in 2018, up by more than a third on the total of 93 during the previous year.
No-fly zones around airports were extended from 1km to 5km in March in an effort to prevent disruption.
From the end of November, anyone with a drone weighing more than 250g will need to register it with the Civil Aviation Authority and pass a competency test.