Extinction Rebellion threatens drone use at Heathrow Airport
As Extinction Rebellion reaffirmed its intentions to use drones to disrupt planes at Heathrow Airport, starting on Friday 13th September, as part of its ongoing campaign to increase awareness and demand action on climate change, it also highlights the many questions raised over possible preventative measures to counter those who may be looking to use drones for more nefarious means. Coincidentally this latest warning came just days after COPTRZ launched the UK’s first drone detection as a service (D-DAAS) provision which can help do just that.
Having previously planned to use drones to force Heathrow to close last month, Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbook recently told a crowd of supporters that the plans will still go ahead at a “pre-announced” date. It’s worth noting that those plans are largely innocuous – “Nobody is getting threatened, attacked or anything” – but according to Ms Bradbook, “the intention is to ground aviation” as part of a plan to raise further debate over proposals for a third runway at the airport.
It could be argued that the threat itself will be nominal. Ms Bradbook has echoed the fact that they intend only to use “crappy little toy” drones and will be operating on the very edge of the airport’s 5km exclusion zone. Anyone who’s ever flown one of those cheap toy drones will know that they have a battery life of just a few minutes and the range is often limited to well under 50ft – so actually getting one into a position to be considered a threat might be a stretch, let alone imagining one of those lightweight plastic models causing any real damage. But that’s not to say that Heathrow and the local authorities should be in a position where they’re not prepared for any and all potential eventualities – and not just for a single ‘pre-announced’ protest.
Of course, in light of previous events at Heathrow in January and the rather more costly couple of days at Gatwick in December, every airport and a wide range of industries and organisations have been keen to establish some kind of counter-drone system – or at least be seen to be doing something to appease their shareholders or a concerned public who might not know a lot about how drones operate or the many very positive things they can also do.
Want to know more about defending airports from Drones? Download our e-book ‘Detecting drone threats at airports‘ below.
How to defend your organisation from drones
Although drones are merely one of the thousands of tools that could enable bad people with bad intentions to do bad things, and that 99% of drone users will be sensible law-abiding folk, we have to accept that they do need to be considered a potential threat and so a solution is required to counter that risk.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this, and certainly spending a huge chunk of money on some cool technology that a guy in a snazzy suit assured you would do the job isn’t likely to be the smartest move. If you or your company is keen to take this on yourself, then the first step is in establishing how such a threat could impact on your business or pose a risk to people and property.
Then you can develop a strategy in order to ensure that the risk can be mitigated with minimal disruption and one that can be used as and when needed – and only once that’s in place can you start to look at the equipment you need to deliver that solution. But a solution that works for one company might be vastly different from what would suit another.
COPTRZ introduce a Drone Detection Service
The alternative is to call in the professionals and let them (or maybe us!) handle things for you. Whether you’re looking for 24/7 on-site surveillance and monitoring, or are holding a one-off event that warrants some kind of aerial threat assessment, there are certainly people who can point you in all the right directions – and with the launch of our own proven high-tech D-DAAS provision, COPTRZ is ready and willing to help.
We’ve all seen stories of drones being flown over various sporting stadia or at music gigs and festivals, and while the authorities might otherwise struggle to react to either track the craft or locate the operator, our solution can do both. The mobile drone detection system comes loaded up in a fleet of self-contained Mercedes vehicles that can be deployed quickly and efficiently to any location or event – with a wide array of technology that can be packed on board in order to fine-tune the loadout to suit any required scenario.
With a geo-fenced radius of up to 5km, it can locate any drones in the area, even determining the make and model of the craft (it will be interesting to see how things develop when drone registration arrives in the UK later this year). Providing real-time data that can be tied into any existing operational system, our specialist detection technology will instantly alert the COPTRZ operating crew and the relevant authorities and/or security staff to the potential threat.
The initial aim is to identify and monitor that threat and evaluate how much of a risk it should be seen as. After all, for every bad person with bad intentions, there are hundreds of people who are maybe just looking to get a really cool and unusual photo and who might not know drone regulations or the risks of flying over crowds. So while the flight might still be considered illegal there needs to be a degree of threat evaluation in place (either human or AI) as you certainly don’t want a system that just instantaneously disables every drone that wanders over your land – especially if there are crowds of people below.
How does it work?
Crucially, our D-DAAS system is the only one of its kind in the world that can not only pinpoint the precise GPS location of the drone, but also that of the operator. So whether the risk is genuine or if it’s just an over-eager photographer, we can quickly direct the police or security staff to the person holding the controller in order to apprehend the pilot, bring the drone down safely and mitigate the threat.
More often than not you’d hope that a warning and a nudge towards the CAA’s DroneCode would suffice, but you have to prepare for all eventualities – and in light of the renewed Extinction Rebellion plans the police has also renewed its declaration that endangering the safety of an aircraft can result in a life sentence.
With our D-DAAS in place, the aim is to offer maximum protection against the misuse of drones but without the need to spend huge amounts of money buying expensive equipment or building up the required infrastructure – although of course, we can help if that’s the path you wanted to take! Our system was used at last year’s British Grand Prix in Silverstone and has been used at state weddings, within critical infrastructure and at the homes of major political figures. These are just a few examples of the many potential use cases where you might want to keep errant drones at bay.
Should I invest in Drone Detection for events?
The short answer, yes. As the drone industry continues to grow, the counter-drone industry will expand and develop alongside it. While many industries are still only just finding their feet with the many positive things that drones can do, there is also a growing awareness of the need for aerial security systems to help monitor and respond to any potential risks – whether it’s a genuine hostile threat or just some idiot who doesn’t know better.
Although the costs involved, along with the lack of awareness of such threats and the seemingly complicated tech required, have previously been something of a deterrent, with counter-drone technology the idea is to be prepared. You don’t want to be reacting to something that’s already happened and it makes a lot more sense to have a strategy and a system in place (or just a phone call away) that you know you can rely on.
If you consider the millions that were lost as a result of Gatwick grounding planes because of a single reported (though as yet unproven) sighting of a drone then certainly it can be a very serious business if you don’t have a plan. Even putting up a few large ‘no-fly zone’ warning signs is better than nothing. However, as mentioned, it’s not about just getting something in place to make you feel better; it’s about finding the right solution to help you deal with any aerial security situation in a calm and measured way.
With a proven and reliable D-DAAS system in place, event organisers, sporting arenas and a whole host of other companies and individuals can feel reassured that if a drone happens to be flying overhead, then someone has their eyes on the craft and is likely directing another person towards the pilot in order to isolate and mitigate any risk. It’s a solution that is as simple as it is incredibly complex, and for that, you want to be sure that you’ve got the best equipment, operated by the best people and designed to suit your own specific needs – which is where we come in!
You can find out more about our system below or get in touch and we’ll happily talk you through your options, whether you’re interested in our mobile D-DAAS or for more permanent solutions!
“With the proliferation of drones set to reach 20million in 2020 and countries like the USA committing a $1 billion counter-drone budget, major events are now waking up to the need to increase their aerial security. D-DAAS enables event organizers to secure their skies without incurring any crippling capital expenditure. The service will play a major role in keeping the public safe from bad actors or stupid operators causing havoc with drones. Nobody wants to be closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!”
Paul Luen, COPTRZ CEO
I am a Drone Pilot. Where can and can’t I fly?
Our Head of Training at Coptrz, Jon Rowland, goes into detail of the flight restriction zones in the UK so you know where you can and can’t fly and what the consequences are if you fly in a restricted zone.