FLYING drones within three miles of an airport will be banned under a safety crackdown planned by the government.

Ministers are considering widening the exclusion zones in the wake of the Christmas chaos at Gatwick.

Under current rules, remote-controlled aircraft are not allowed within a kilometre – just over half-a-mile – of a main runway.

But worried pilots have warned it means a drone at 400ft would still be in the flight path and pose a risk to incoming or outgoing jets.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is ready to impose further restrictions and will discuss it with aviation chiefs over the next eight weeks.

He is also expected to give police sweeping new powers to seize equipment and access records involving crime scenes or large events at risk of terror attacks.

Pilots have reported several near misses with drones and the number reported to investigators has risen from six in 2014 to 93 in 2017.

But the government has been spurred into action after 140,000 people had their festive travel plans disrupted after illegal drone activity near Gatwick was reported to police.

A key proposal being studied is from the pilots’ union Balpa, which wants the current 1km exclusion zone around airports, brought in last July, to be extended to 5km to keep drones away from passenger jets.

A Balpa spokesman said: “A drone at 400ft, 1km away from an airport, is still directly in the flight path and that is plainly not safe and yet is allowed under the new legislation.

“We shall continue to argue for a drone exclusion zone around airports of 5km in the interests of safety.”

The Airport Operators Association also insists 1km is not enough to guarantee aircraft safety.

It has called on the government to implement a “no-fly zone” for at least 4km around an airport – along with mandatory “geofencing” which would prevent drones entering restricted airspace by electronic means.

But the move could infuriate drone enthusiasts who could be banned from flying them in many urban parks if the exclusion zone is expanded.

A source admitted: “It would virtually amount to a ban on drones within the M25.”

One option would be to extend the 1km radius but fall short of the 5km proposal.

The drones bill will include powers for police to enforce the law relating to drones, which they currently lack.

Gatwick has spent about £5million on anti-drone equipment, and Heathrow, the country’s busiest airport, confirmed it had also bought technology to combat the unmanned craft.