The British Grand Prix was first held back in 1926. In the decades since, we have seen automotive technology come on leaps and bounds. The race at Silverstone has grown to become one of the UK’s iconic annual occasions. In the same vein as the Wimbledon tennis and the Open golf tournaments. It’s right at the centre of the motor racing showpiece. It is the technological innovation which is exhibited by Formula One cars.
But it is not only on the race track where the evidence of technological progress is seen. In the skies, the growth of drone use has come to characterise the past decade. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are becoming ever more common for both commercial and recreational purposes.
It is against this backdrop that COPTRZ was asked to partner with organisers of the sporting showpiece. The organisers had rightly identified drone use in the skies as an essential consideration to the safety of both spectators, drivers and staff.
So let’s have a look at exactly how COPTRZ’s drone detection team was deployed in Northamptonshire for one of the world’s biggest sporting events:
On-site security teams at events such as the British Grand Prix have a world of considerations when it comes to protecting those participating in and watching the event. Controlling an airspace which presents a potential opportunity for illicit drone use is vital, especially in such a high-speed, high-risk sport.
Not only do UAVs which go undetected pose the threat of being potentially harmful, they could also be used to film the event, making it all the more important that the British Grand Prix organisers protect the investment of the TV rights holders.
Having tracked the increase in drone use at similar sporting events, the British Grand Prix organisers needed a drone detection solution which they could rely on to safeguard the event against the unknown risk which unchecked drones could represent.
The race organisers needed a company which was experienced enough to consider all possible scenario, and that have a track record in planning and implementing drone detection solutions. They needed to ensure they could provide and utilise the latest drone technology to ensure that the airspace area around Silverstone, the 12th largest sporting venue in the world, was protected sufficiently.
The solution had to be tailored to fit in with tried and trusted security protocols which were already in place.
COPTRZ conducted a thorough pre-event consultation in partnership with the Silverstone security team, before formulating a strategy to cover the three-day event, which consisted of a practice day, qualifying, and race day itself.
A four-man mobile drone detection team was deployed for the event. They were operating across two separate drone detection systems. The decision to use two systems had the desired effect of extending the radius covered for the event. This overcame the challenge of Silverstone’s large size – the total radius covered was 25km.
Prior to the start of the event, COPTRZ held a full brief with on-site security to establish a protocol for if and when an unauthorised drone was detected. This left all parties involved – both COPTRZ and the Silverstone organisers – in no doubt as to the steps which needed to be taken when a drone was detected, and the specific procedure should that drone be thought to be flown with malicious purposes.
Multiple radiofrequency and optical forms of detection were used to provide a complete solution to all UAVs.
The technology was able to retrieve details on the drones’ serial numbers and model. It also located its route, altitude and speed. It was even able to detect the individuals operating them. This allowed them to inform the organisers of any unplanned flight activity.
Not only did the solution offer the drone detection team ample time to decide on a course of action in the event that a drone looked set to infringe on the Silverstone airspace, but it also gave security teams a greater chance of apprehending any persons who were found to be using drones in a malicious fashion, should this scenario occur.
During the three-day event, the COPTRZ drone detection team successfully tracked one unauthorised UAV within the boundaries of Silverstone during the qualifying stage of the Grand Prix. The predefined security protocol was followed and the outcome was satisfactory.
On-site security was made aware of the drone pilot’s location (in real-time). They were then able to dispatch a team to apprehend the pilot. This ensured that the drone was detected in good time to take the steps necessary. It allowed them to identify and apprehend it. Thus, spectators, staff and race participants were protected as a result.
The solution also enabled security to catch up with the offender. This acts as a deterrent to those who consider unlawfully flying a drone over the race circuit in the future. The unauthorised drone was reported to security teams within 15 seconds, allowing them to dispatch a ground team instantly.
As part of the service, health and safety experts at the British Grand Prix were provided with a full debrief following the event. This included historical flight logs of any unauthorised drones. Information that can be used in court at a later date if required. This information can help the Silverstone security team’s planning to protect the airspace for future events.
COPTRZ work at the British Grand Prix demonstrated why many high-profile organisations in the UK – from police forces to corporates – trust the UK’s leading commercial drone provider to offer them an unmatched drone detection solution.
Lesley Cox, Head of Safety and Security at Silverstone, explained why COPTRZ were bought in and their impact on the running of the event:
“The number of drones taking to the skies is an increasing concern for large sporting events such as the Formula 1 2018 Rolex British Grand Prix here at Silverstone,” she said.
“We chose COPTRZ to provide a drone detection solution for the three-day event and their team worked closely with onsite security and successfully managed to detect a number of drones during the event.
“Being able to detect drones in real-time is a really important aspect of event safety and security, and this solution enabled us to react efficiently and to dispatch response teams to the drone pilot’s location.
“I am pleased to say that by working with COPTRZ gave us the confidence we needed in order to ensure our event was free from obtrusive drones.”
Steve Coulson, COPTRZ founder and managing director, explained that Silverstone isn’t the only high profile venue that needs this service:
“Drone detection teams and technology is on the increase and we’re being used more and more to bring our knowledge to ensure events pass off without any incidents.
“Two years ago the Glastonbury Festival took action to stop festival goers bringing them in – but that doesn’t stop them flying in from outside of the perimeters, which means security teams can’t take decisive action but that must be seen a ‘must’ nowadays.”
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