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.
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.
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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.
MartekCUAS introduce a M.A.D.S:
Martek CUAS have developed the M.A.D.S™ Martek Anti-Drone System. M.A.D.S™ detects and identifies commercial drones within a 5+km range, providing GPS positioning of both drone and pilot together with the drone’s speed and heading. Configurable and escalating stage alarms in real time allow the threat level to be assessed in good time to decide on appropriate defence actions.
Once a real drone threat has been established, the system enables a 500m+ electronic ‘exclusion zone’ to be created. Should the drone approach this exclusion zone, its control/video signal will be blocked, initiating its fail-safe mode forcing it to land or return to its operator.
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