The senior officer in charge of policing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations has issued a stark warning that anyone attempting to fly a drone will be immediately arrested.
Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald’s message came amid heightened public anxiety following the incident at Gatwick Airport that caused widespread disruption to air travel.
The event commander said it would be “highly irresponsible” for anyone to fly a drone in a crowded area.
Up to 160,000 people will descend on the capital for the official programme of Hogmanay 2019 events, which could also reach one billion people across the world watching on television or online.
The exclusion zone which is a continuation of previous policy, will be in place ahead of the festivities and applies to the Torchlight Procession on tomorrow and the Street Party on Monday.
Air restrictions will be within a two-mile radius of the junction between East Market Street and Jeffrey Street - this covers all areas from this centre point to Figgate Park in Portobello to the east, Braid Hills to the south, Edinburgh Zoo to the west and the Forth coastline to the north,
Chief Supt. Macdonald said: “Drones are not allowed. This is not something we have introduced just on the back of Gatwick.
“For many years it’s been a no-fly zone round about both the Torchlight and the Hogmanay Street Party events.
“That’s due to public safety. It would be highly irresponsible for somebody to fly a drone above a very crowded place and therefore anyone who does so will be committing an offence.
“It would be a breach of the Air Aviation Act.
“If you did get a drone for Christmas then obviously you want to fly it in a responsible manner.
“Flying it over a very crowded space with tens of thousands of people within a relatively defined space, if that drone falls out of the air, the potential to injure somebody is there.
“We would ask people to act responsibly because if they fly it over either of the events they will be breaking the law and they can expect to be pursued and charged with the relevant legislation.”
Asked if there were plans in place to down any drones seen flying in the no-fly zone, Chief Supt. Macdonald said: “It would depend on the prevailing circumstances as to the tactics that we would deploy.
“There’s a plan in pace to deal with drones, which revolves mostly around mitigation of the threat in the first place rather than actually tackling a drone that’s in the air.”
He said the primary concern of police and organising partners was the safety of those attending Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events, while making it as enjoyable as possible.
Chief Supt. Macdonald said there was “absolutely no specific intelligence” to suggest that there is any terror threat to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
However, hundreds of officers will be on duty alongside event stewards, and revellers can expect to see armed police.
There will also be some road closures and revellers can expect to be searched. The restrictions do not apply to any aircraft flying in the service of Police Scotland, the Scottish Air Ambulance Service and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, or those which have asked for and been granted permission to do so in advance
The restriction will also not apply during the Loony Dook on January 1 in South Queensferry.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay directors Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam are hopeful the extended coverage of events over the new year period will draw in a global audience of 1 billion people.
Met Office adviser Gregory Wolverson has also predicted “fairly settled” weather for the festivities. He added: “It is expected to remain mild for the time of year.”
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