30 Oct 2019

Government launch new counter-drone strategy

The Government will develop a new mobile counter-drone unit to be deployed to drone-related incidents and major events across the UK, as part of the government’s “Counter-Drone” Strategy.

Like many emerging technologies, drones play an ever more important role in business and there are currently more than 5,000 commercial users currently registered in the UK. They also provide an increasingly vital tool to assist the work of our emergency services.

The new strategy will ensure individuals, businesses and emergency services in the UK can continue to harness the economic and social benefits of drones, while cracking down on misuse and disruption.

It includes plans to drive forward the establishment of international design standards for manufacturers to enable safety features to be designed in from the start and make drones safe to use in the UK. This will happen with input from a new industry action group to encourage collaboration with government, drive progress and stay ahead of malicious drone users.

A new mobile counter-drone unit will be created, containing detection and disruption equipment, which can be deployed by police and other emergency responders to protect major events and rapidly respond to drone incidents across the UK.

The use of unmanned aircraft has grown significantly in recent years and the industry is expected to contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030, with more than 76,000 commercial and public sector drones expected to be in use by this date.

However, this also increases the risks of malicious use. Latest statistics show there were 168 police recorded drone incidents in England and Wales in 2018, and 165 drones were recovered at prisons in 2016 and 2017.

The strategy also includes:

  • the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, which will give police increased powers to tackle illegal drone use
  • a new national standard for police recording of illegal drone activity to help build a picture of the drone threat
  • national guidance for police to assist them during malicious drone incidents
  • the government’s ongoing work with industry to research and test the latest counter drone equipment so that police across the country are able to respond to threats – building on the work already done across government
  • over the next 3 years, the government will work with partners to compile a catalogue of approved counter-drone technology to assure police and the owners and operators of critical national infrastructure sites that they are investing in the most effective and appropriate technology
  • a government communications campaign to educate the general public and continue to encourage safe drone use
  • Earlier this year it was announced that from 30 November 2019, every operator of a drone weighing more than 250g will need to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and all remote pilots will have to have passed an online competency test

Security Minister Brandon Lewis said: “This government is proud of the UK’s burgeoning drone industry and we will do all that we can to ensure that the UK firmly establishes itself as a world leader in this industry.

“But to ensure the drone industry can thrive in this country we must be able to crack down effectively on those who would use drones to cause harm or disruption.

“There is no silver bullet to help protect our infrastructure and our citizens from malicious or careless drone use. That’s why this Strategy outlines a broad range of work to ensure we can effectively tackle the threat.”

To read the strategy in full, please click here

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