Published on Monday, October 21, 2019

Pilots welcome government's 'detect and destroy' counter-drone force


Pilots have welcomed the government's announcement of a new national counter-drone force with the capability to 'detect and destroy' drones.

The government said the new mobile special unit, to be set up by the Home Office, will prevent a repeat of the sort of chaos seen at Gatwick last Christmas.

Equipped with military-grade cameras, radar and radio frequency scanners to detect rogue drones, it will be available to any police force or law enforcement agency in the UK.

Brian Stutton, general secretary of the pilots' union BALPA, said: "BALPA has campaigned for counter-drone measures to be introduced and we are pleased to see the Government both taking drone safety seriously and promoting sustainable growth of the industry - keeping the public safe is imperative if drones are to reach their full potential.

"We understand the huge commercial and leisure benefits of drones but the threat of a collision with an aircraft is real and could be catastrophic to those on board and on the ground, and so this threat must be taken seriously.

"Even without a collision, the chaos that drones can cause when infiltrating airspace has been proven with what we saw at Gatwick and Heathrow last Christmas. We hope the introduction of new technology will deter those so minded to do something similar, and will help with the detection and arrest of those who go ahead with it."

The mobile unit will have electronic jamming equipment and shoulder-launched bazookas to bring drones down. A bazooka with a 100 metre range has been tested by police at Heathrow and a more powerful version with a 300 metre range is being developed.

The unit is part of the government's counter-drone strategy, which includes a requirement for drones to be fitted with 'geofencing', which uses their GPS to prevent them flying over sensitive sites, such as airports.

From next month all owners of drones weighing more than 250 grammes will be required by law to register their device with the CAA and take an online safety test. Anyone who fails to do so faces fines of up to £1,000.

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