New flight restriction zones for drone operators come into force today (Wednesday March 13th), meaning that drones must be kept  further away from airports at Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra.

New government regulations mean that the 1km restriction from the airfield boundary has been replaced by a restriction using the airfield’s existing aerodrome traffic zone, which has a radius of either two or two and a half nautical miles, and then five kilometres by one kilometre zones, starting from the point known as the ‘threshold’ at the end of each of the airfield’s runways.

Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from air traffic control at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself.

Drone operation near airports has become an increasing concern recently, with several collisions between drones and aircraft reported in Germany, Australia and Canada. In December last year over 1,000 flights were cancelled at Gatwick airport after drones were seen flying within the airport perimeter.

Security issues and aircraft safety are a significant concern, and airports in scenic locations, such as those in the Western Isles, can be vulnerable to unintentional conflicts between airline operations and those wanting aerial footage of tourist locations.

A map of the UK showing each airfield’s restriction is available and the full government restrictions are explained at

The picture shows Stornoway airport’s southern approach (Stornoway airport).