Home Office to install anti-drone detectors to protect UK from aerial terror attacks

Drones are increasingly used in warfare - AFP

Drones are increasingly used in warfare – AFP

Anti-drone detectors are to be deployed around nuclear power stations, transport hubs, oil rigs and other sensitive infrastructure across the UK to protect them from aerial terrorism as part of an £8 million Home Office project.

The government has quietly commissioned anti-drone technology, which will also be deployed at major public events such as the coronation of King Charles, the Commonwealth Games and the Eurovision Song Contest.

The systems will be designed to allow police and security forces to track any small or medium-sized drone and use scanning technology so they can be detected even if they are not emitting a signal.

They will enable law enforcement authorities to better control no-fly zones around restricted areas such as nuclear power plants, government buildings, military bases, prisons and royal palaces, as well as major national events.

Understandably, security officials are concerned about the increasing ability of drones to inflict major damage and physical or economic damage by terrorists at strategic locations or during major events.

Around 1,000 flights, affecting 140,000 passengers over three days, had to be canceled or diverted when an unauthorized drone flew into Gatwick airspace in January 2019.

Major airports have since developed their own detection and destruction technology to counter the threat, but the government is now seeking to establish similar safeguards, starting with key national infrastructure facilities and eventually across the UK.

Terrorists have so far only deployed drones in war zones, although in August 2018 there was an attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with two small drones carrying explosives that were detonated while he was giving an open-air speech.

Beyond combating terrorism, officials see prisons as the next biggest threat, where the detection rate of drones used by organized crime gangs to deliver drugs, phones and weapons to prisons doubled last year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office works closely with the police to ensure they can deter, detect and disrupt the misuse of drones and ensure public safety.

“We are empowering police and other operational response units with access to the latest advances in anti-drone capabilities, training and relevant legislative powers. However, it has long been a policy that we do not comment on security findings.”

Anyone with a drone weighing more than 250 grams and/or a camera must register it with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after which they receive a number that must be displayed on their device. About 300,000 people have registered.

Drones are banned from flying within 150 meters of built-up areas, while airspace restrictions that apply to aircraft also extend to drones, barring them from airports, nuclear power plants, royal palaces and other strategic locations. Local councils and landowners such as the National Trust can also prohibit their use on their land.

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