The owner of a Whitchurch-based drone business has welcomed the introduction of tougher regulations to control the flying of drones around airports and aerodromes.

The new measures have been highlighted in the wake of the drone incident at Gatwick just before Christmas which closed the airport for two days.

New regulations covering small unmanned aircraft – SUAs - came into force on March 13, extending the exclusion zone around airports and aerodromes from 1km to around 5km.

Kevin Hampton of Higher Heath, near Whitchurch, owner of Sky Vision Drones, said the new regulations were a positive move towards responsible drone use both commercially and privately.

Last year the government made it illegal to fly a drone above 120m (400ft) or within one kilometre of an airport, but it is now extended to five with a further one kilometre around the ends of runways.

“Personally, I think it makes sense. In fact I think that only those who have a licence should be allowed to buy drones," he said.

"All licensed commercial drone operators have to go through complex checks and procedures before they fly.

"Their flying operations manual is checked every year by the Civil Aviation Authority before the licence can be renewed.

“It’s the unlicensed operators who often cause problems because they are unaware or don’t take any notice of the rules and safety checks.

"But if a drone were to collide with an aircraft either taking off or coming into land, the impact would be devastating."

He said that further restrictions would come into force in November bringing in compulsory registration and testing for all SUA operators.

The number of aircraft incidents involving drones has increased dramatically over the past five years.

Figures from the UK Airprox Board which reports on airborne collisions and near-misses, showed that they had risen from 0 in 2013 to more than 100 in 2018.

“There are a lot of changes coming in for drone operators as their use increases. And that has got to be a good thing for the safe use of drones,” added Mr Hampton.