New legislation to extend the no-fly zone for drones around airports will come into force next month, the Department for Transport has announced.

The gadgets will be banned from being flown within five kilometres of airports from March 13.

Under current laws only a one-kilometre restriction is in place.

Drones: the rules(PA Graphics)

The Government has also partnered with a major retailer in a bid to reduce drone misuse.

Jessops has pledged to ensure it tells customers about the latest rules around flying drones.

Concern about their misuse has grown after sightings of the devices caused flights to be grounded over 36 hours at Gatwick Airport in the run-up to Christmas.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The law is clear that flying a drone near an airport is a serious criminal act.

“We’re now going even further and extending the no-fly zone to help keep our airports secure and our skies safe.

“We are also working to raise awareness of the rules in place.

“Anyone flying their drone within the vicinity of an airport should know they are not only acting irresponsibly, but criminally, and could face imprisonment.”

There were 125 near misses between drones and aircraft reported in 2018, up 34% on the total of 93 during the previous year.

Just six incidents were recorded in 2014.

Ian Savage, head of retail and academy training at Jessops, said: “Along with the pleasure drones bring comes a responsibility for the user to ensure they are flying their drone safely and legally.

“As one of the leading drone retailers, Jessops is committed to ensuring it communicates the new laws to all its customers.”

Drones close Gatwick airportThe Arrivals Board at Gatwick airport which was closed after drones were spotted over the airfield (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Government is working on a new Drones Bill which will give police officers powers to stop and search people suspected of using drones maliciously above 400ft or within five kilometres of an airport

It will also give forces the power to access electronic data stored on a drone with a warrant.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Extending stop and search to include drones will help police tackle disruption like the recent misery we saw at UK airports, when travel was ruined for thousands of innocent passengers, and bring those responsible to justice.

“Police are clear that stop and search is one of the most powerful tools they have to target and disrupt crime and I remain committed to giving them all the support they need to protect the public.”

From November 30 the owners of drones which weigh between 250g and 20kg will be required to register their devices, and drone pilots will have to pass an online safety test.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s code of conduct, the Dronecode, sets out existing rules for drone users, including staying below 400 feet and flying at least 50 metres away from buildings and people.