A football stadium full of fans, a drone, and a gust of wind; an accident waiting to happen…
If we look back to a specific case back in 2015, a man in the UK was fined £1,800 pounds [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-34256680] for flying his drone over stadiums while high-profile football clubs played in front of crowds as large as 60,000.
This was deemed hazardous by the Westminster Magistrates Court, who described his actions as “the height of arrogance in terms of public safety.” Without sight of the drone and no way to gauge wind speed, the pilot could have lost control of his aircraft or collided with a part of the stadium. Should the drone have dropped into the stands from such height, it would likely cause injury or death.
While most hobbyists follow the guidelines in place to ensure safe use of their drones, it is still important to consider ways this type of scenario could be prevented in future.
What drone detection system is available?
English prisons are already set to be equipped with £7million worth of drone detection systems. It is difficult to imagine Premier League clubs in the UK shying away from a similar cost to implement safety measures for their fans.
Aeroscope is one such ready-to-use system that can track and monitor drones entering restricted airspace. With a range up to 20km, this system can detect the video uplink of the drone. It can also detect the uplink from the controller, making it possible to pinpoint the controller’ location.
So, it’s possible to spot drones, but is there a way to eliminate the immediate threat hovering above the heads of fans by turning detection into interception? This is sort of a grey area…
While it’s feasible for stadium security staff to locate and engage in dialogue with the drone operator, taking the drone of a defiant controller out the sky safely is not a straightforward task. At a glance, it seems there isn’t a drone mitigation system on the market which is applicable to the case including the pilot and the football stadium incident.
What other technology is available?
There is a technology available to literally shoot drones out of the sky. These guns work with compressed gas to fire shells containing nets, like a shoulder mounted rocket launcher. This approach does raise a number of issues; the most prominent being that the drone could still potentially land on a spectator.
This method is dependent on spotting and engaging the drone before it enters congested airspace. There are few big city stadiums that lie in the middle of an empty field.
Could other users of the sky be the answer?
Many don’t realise we can look to our feathered friends for assistance in these specific circumstances. The solution? It could be eagles.
Police in the Netherlands have trained birds to capture drones and carry them all the way back to their trainers. The drone blades do not pose a threat to the eagles. This is due to their precision of attack and excellent eyesight, enabling them to clearly see the rotors.
The proposition – after the surveillance systems spot a drone, a well-trained bird could take it out of the sky without posing any threat to spectators below.
Is a combination of radar-centric technology and birds the future of countering UAV threats? Until this gap is further considered by security industries, it may just be! For now however, systems like Aeroscope seems to be the way forward. Drone detection systems sooner rather than later are going to become a necessity for all major football stadia.