Delivering Counter-UAV Solutions on the World Stage 14 Aug 2019
Over the past few years, sales of commercial drones have risen significantly. Costing from as little as $30, UAVs are set to continue increasing in popularity and volume. When used for good, drones can be deployed to search for survivors in earthquakes, to pinpoint specific crops in need of pesticides, and to perform spectacles such as that witnessed at the Super Bowl where a drone swarm filled the sky in the shape and colours of the United States flag. The limit to the possibilities and benefits of UAV technology is yet to be imagined. However, so too is their potential for danger and disruption. With a stark rise in the number of drones in operation, there is a heightened risk of their malicious or accidental misuse.
In the wrong hands, UAVs offer an ideal tool for espionage, illegal filming, and terrorist activity. Those who seek to cause harm and disruption are able to load payloads onto drones capable of smuggling contraband into prisons, detonating explosive devices, and illegally recording sporting or musical events. Hostile actors can manipulate drone technology with little fear of retribution. Drones can be small and difficult to spot. They can fly continuously for 30 minutes and batteries can be changed easily and quickly. Even swarms of thousands of drones can fly autonomously or be operated by a single controller, who can be located as far as 8km away.
In December 2018, Gatwick airport and its passengers witnessed first-hand the disruption that drones can cause. As the second largest airport in the United Kingdom, Gatwick transports approximately 46million passengers a year to over 200 destinations world-wide. Between 19th and 21st December last year, drone sightings led to cancellations and delays affecting 140,000 passengers. Reports indicated that the drone was within a kilometre of Gatwick’s runway and so posed a significant threat of colliding with an aircraft.
METIS Aerospace Ltd attended Gatwick during the incident to provide part of its overall counter-UAV capability. The SKYPERION system helped to provide assurance that the airspace was clear allowing the 36-hour stand-still to come to an end. SKYPERION’s success was widely reported. According to Gatwick:
‘We are delighted to say that METIS responded immediately. They collaborated closely with ourselves and others and provided part of the required assurance that helped to ensure the continued safety and resilience of our airport.
“Having now formalised a long-term relationship, we continue to work closely with the METIS team to develop the system’s coverage. With their help, as well as others, we are now able to provide leading edge counter-drone resilience for Gatwick Airport, our passengers and wider stakeholders.’
A repeated and sustained attack of a UAV or UAVs led to prolonged chaos and financial disruption. This event was unprecedented, but it has highlighted the threat posed by malicious and dangerous UAV misuse. With environmental activists such as Extinction Rebellion threatening to cause disruption at Heathrow using UAVs, the drone threat cannot simply be ignored. METIS Aerospace continue to support Gatwick airport and are now looking to offer SKYPERION and their expertise to other airports, public events and government organisations across the globe.