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by Sam Trendall
23 October 2019
UK Government releases counter-drone strategy

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UK Government releases counter-drone strategy

The UK Government has published its counter-drone strategy, including measures to promote the use of technology standards and the creation of a dedicated unit to detect and immobilise dangerous drones.

The mobile division, which will be equipped with “detection and disruption equipment”, will be available for deployment around the country to support the work of the police and other blue-light services.

In addition to this additional resource, the police will also be bolstered with “increased powers to tackle illegal drone use”.

Standards to govern law enforcement’s recording of illegal activity will also be introduced, the government said, which will “help build a picture of the drone threat”. Officers will also be given additional guidance on how best to deal with malicious drones.

Elsewhere, the strategy pledges that the public and private sectors will work together to explore what anti-drone technology is currently available. Ministers will then create a catalogue of products and services that are approved for use by the police and security services.

Alongside the legislative and law-enforcement measures, the government also said that it will launch a “communications campaign to educate the general public and continue to encourage safe drone use”.

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.”

Police across England and Wales dealt with 168 drone incidents in 2018, according to the government. 

The most notable of these was surely the disruption caused at Gatwick Airport over three days shortly before Christmas last year. About 1,000 flights due to land or take off from the airport were cancelled or diverted after drones were seen flying close to the runway. It is believed that the incident was a deliberate act of sabotage. Despite police investigations, no one has ever been arrested.

Despite such challenges, the UK Government also flagged up the potential benefits of the technology – which it said could boost the UK economy by £42bn over the next decade. By 2030, more than 76,000 drones will have been put to use by businesses or public-sector entities, the government predicted.

Transport minister Baroness Vere said: “Unmanned aircraft, including drones, could transform how we move people and goods, boost our economy and even save lives. Unfortunately, they can be, and have been, used recklessly at airports and in our skies. The UK has been at the forefront in tackling the malicious use of unmanned aircraft. This strategy, alongside existing and planned legislation, will let us tap into the benefits of this technology while helping keep people safe both in the air and on the ground.”

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