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For the past few weeks four incidents have been recorded in which an almost-collision took place between drones and manned aircrafts, including passenger planes, near Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, Birmingham and London City. For some time now, ministers have been considering taking action against the use of unmanned aircraft after a surge in the number of drones being flown by members of the public.

Existing law already states that drones must not be flown within 150 metres of any congested area, or within 50 metres of buildings not owned by their operator. There are also exclusion areas around airports. Now, the Government is set to introduce a range of measures to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft, including a parallel air traffic control system to monitor drones in British airspace. Another step will most likely be to insert chips into new drones to transmit signals much like GPS.

Ministers are also looking into introducing an online registration system requiring owners of drones to enter their details on a database before they can fly a device. The measures would enable officials to track the owners of drones being flown illegally, including those flying close to airports and built-up areas. Users can be jailed for up to five years for endangering an aircraft.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: ‘It is vital that people observe the rules when operating a drone. Users must understand that when putting a device into the air they are interacting with one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world – a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft, including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders, light aircraft and now drones.’

There were, in the past year, seven recorded near-misses involving drones, two of them with Airbus A320 airplanes carrying 150 passengers. In one of these incidents the drones came as close as 15 meters to the passenger plane, creating real and immediate threat.

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