Drones weighing over 250g will have to be registered with the government as part of a new crackdown launched today.
The new laws will also ban drones from flying above 400ft, less than 150ft from people or buildings or within 1,000 metres of airport boundaries.
It follows several near misses with aircraft.
People who flout the new rules could face an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison.
Anyone who wants to use a drone will also have to take an online safety test under the new legislation, which has taken the CAA’s Drone Code and put it into law from 30 May.
Owners who fail to register their technology or sit the competency tests could be fined up to £1,000.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun.
“Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies.”
The number of incidents involving drones and aircraft has risen from six in 2014 to 93 last year.
Gatwick Airport chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said: “We welcome the clarity that today’s announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields.
“Drones open up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the travelling public.”
The government says that ensuring drones are being used safely paves the way for the devices to play an increasingly important role in society.
They are already being used to save money in the nuclear and other power industries, to monitor the rail transport network and by the media.
In addition to the new measures, a draft Drones Bill will be published this summer, which will give police more on-the-spot powers if drones are being used inappropriately.
Drone operators will eventually be required to use apps so they can access information to ensure planned flights can be made safely and legally.
The Department for Transport says model aircraft flying associations are working with the CAA to make sure drone regulations do not impact their activity.