Drone users will face new restrictions from next year, following more than 50 near misses with aircraft in the last 12 months, a transport minister says.
The new law could restrict drone use near airports and give police new powers to land drones suspected of involvement in criminal activity.
Baroness Sugg said the chance of a significant incident was high and “we are clear on the need to act”.
At the moment it was difficult to link a person to a specific drone, she said.
The proposed legislation is backed by the British Airline Pilots’ Association, which together with the Military Aviation Authority, carried out research to highlight the vulnerability of airline and helicopter windscreens to drone strikes.
Raising the subject in the House of Lords, Lib Dem Lady Randerson said: “There are hundreds of thousands of drones now in operation – and there were over 50 near misses reported this year alone on aircraft.
“The government needs to develop a much greater sense of urgency in dealing with this serious problem that will lead to an accident if it is not controlled.”
Lady Sugg said the research was “concerning” and she understood “the need to move on this”, insisting: “We are taking action.”
The government has launched a “drone code” – an educational awareness campaign – and a drone assist app to help improve the safety of drone use.
Labour’s Lord Rosser pressed the minister for an assessment “of the possibility of a drone being involved in a major incident resulting in loss of life or serious injuries”.
“Is the possibility of such a major incident becoming more or less likely as each day passes?” he asked.
Lady Sugg said she was “aware that the expectation of an incident is high”, but while “there hasn’t been a significant incident yet… more drones are being sold every day and so we are very clear on the need to take action on this”.
Crossbencher Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked if the new legislation would cover other elicit drone use, such as the transportation of illegal substances into prisons.
And Labour’s Lord Berkeley asked who would identify and catch the perpetrators of illegal drone use and what kind of penalties would be involved.
The minister replied: “It’s sometimes a challenge to link an operator to a drone. We’re trying to help address this by bringing forward a registration system and we’re also investigating electronic identification.
“We’re looking at powers for the police to require the production of registration ID and documents for drone users. Also, that they will be able to require a drone user to land their drone and also to search for and seize a drone when there’s a reasonable belief that a crime has taken place.”
In response to another question, she also said the new measures would not include the use of lasers directed at aircraft cockpits.