Government’s Drone Resist Strategy is launched… October 2019

11th November 2019

Drone in professional use

The government finally published the UK’s counter-unmanned aircraft strategy.  Ultimately directed at dealing with drone issues that relate to:

  1. Organised crime;
  2. Disruption to national infrastructure;
  3. Acts of terrorism;
  4. Threats to the UK’s national security.

Interestingly the report refers to the incident at Gatwick airport during the Christmas period in 2018, but has failed to refer to or provide any evidence that there was in fact a drone that caused so much disruption to so many.  To date, there is still no evidence and Sussex Police have conceded that their investigation produced nothing costing the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds. The government’s strategy for promoting legitimate drone use in the UK will be set out in the forthcoming Aviation Strategy (date to be announced).

The Strategy paper focuses on the following with my comments:

  • The Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill will give police wide powers to deal with illegal drone use.

COMMENT: this will be covered in more detail in another blog;

  • A new industry action group will be formed that will include drone manufacturers to implement international design standards for integrated safety features and their technology pipelines;

COMMENT: This is great, but realistically, is a Chinese manufacturer going to disclose their technology pipeline? How are different manufacturers going to agree international design standards unless mandated to do so?

  • A mobile Drone Resist unit containing detection and disruption equipment will be developed for deployment to drone-related incidents and major events across the UK;

COMMENT: This is for the most part reactionary and how will the government mitigate the threat to a live drone attack in multiple locations simultaneously, e.g. three major airports at the same time being attacked by hostile drones.

  • Police will have to log and record incidents of illegal and/or hostile drone activity to further understand the drone threat;

COMMENT: Police should be doing something similar already as their CAA approved operations manual will most likely contain an obligation to record all flights; therefore not an unnecessary burden.

  • Policymakers and regulators will engage with manufacturers of drone components;

COMMENT: This is great, but what about a company’s intellectual property rights?  What if the company is in the Far East?

  • By 30 November 2019, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20Kg will have to register them with the CAA at a cost  and drone remote pilots will have to take an online competency test.  This will make “it easier to identify a drone that is being misused.”

COMMENT: The Irish Government have had registration since 2017 and it is a bureaucratic burden!  It has done nothing for safety apparently. Interesting to note how it will be easier to identify a drone that is being misused without actually stating how this is going to be achieved and why. It is almost another reason to justify registration, which cost has been recently reduced from £16 to £9 by the CAA for a registration platform that costs £millions, when data security by the CAA has recently proven not to be safe.

  • The government is developing concepts for future implementation of an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system.

Many governments are developing systems, but ultimately data from each drone operator will be required in order to provide the visibility necessary, and the same applies to some general aviation aircraft. The scope is being developed by a number of jurisdictions on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • New definition of “operational responders” that must have counter drone knowledge, that just does not include the Police, but also:
    • Other public sector employees such as prison officers;
    • Private sector employees responsible for safety and security (prisons, CNI and crowded places);

COMMENT: Many will need training, will that be left to the NQE’s to pick up? There’s a potential business opportunity!

  • “The police are able to legally deploy a range of DTI (detect, track and identify) and counter-drone effector systems” versus “current police powers need to be built upon to meet the evolving threat, and some of the processes that underpin these powers were not designed with counter-drone capability in mind.”

COMMENT: There is a clear gap in the law here, are the Police acting illegally as the law is currently written? More analysis in another blog to follow.

It will come as no surprise that the paper raises many quesitons, but is a good start.  The governement is commited to working with various stakeholders, but the law must change so that all stakeholders can benfit accordingly…