Government agencies are employing drone hunting technology to enhance safety and security at international airports.
Remote controlled drone technology serves a variety of useful purposes. However, the threat from them being used for nefarious purposes is increasingly prevalent.
For instance, UK Intelligence officials have uncovered sketches of drones armed with bombs in recent raids of resurgent Al-Qaeda bases, with plans to use these to attack commercial aircraft. Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria have also used these drones for battlefield surveillance and have successfully delivered small explosive payloads with tactical effect.
Most recently, this threat came close to being realised in the UK. In the lead up to Christmas, planes were grounded at Gatwick Airport for over 36 hours after reports of suspected drone activity in restricted airspace.
In the aftermath of this incident, the UK Government has invested in drone hunting technology at major airports to ensure perceived drone sightings can be addressed more definitively. Designed by an Israeli firm, the ‘Drone Dome’ or the Rafael is based on a four-tiered system which is capable of not only visually identifying drones and jamming their radio signals, but also neutralising it with a laser payload.
In this situation, the Rafael’s laser payload is initiated. The high frequency beam has the capacity to burn drones up to 2.5km away in under seven seconds.
Similar counter-drone technology is also expected to be rolled out in Australian airports this year. The devices will enable detection of drones which breach the 5.5km exclusion zone around major airports. By automatically scanning their serial numbers, the operator can be tracked down in minutes by law enforcement. The technology will also be portable, allowing airspace monitoring to occur at any location across the country – especially in emergency situations.
Some legal rules for safe drone usage
Drone usage is ever increasing. In Australia alone, there are approximately 1400 certified operators and about 10,000 licenced drone pilots according to CASA. Therefore, if you are a recreational or commercial drone user, always check the rules and guidelines provided by your respective national aviation authority before flying.
In Australia, The Civil Aviation Safety Authority provides various rules for using drones for recreational and commercial purposes. Some of these rules are:
• Not flying your drone higher than 120m (400ft) above the ground;
• Not flying your drone within 30m of people; and
• Keeping your drone at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes (usually those with a control tower)
Heavy penalties apply for non-compliance of these rules. The full list of rules can be found on the CASA website.