In parts one and two of our series ‘The State of UAVs in the UK’ we looked at the threat drones pose to stadiums and prisons and how these can be mitigated. In part three we are going to look at the protection of public spaces, including public parks, national parks, city squares and open-air theatres.
Drones are fast becoming a problem for the organisations that manage our public spaces. At Stonehenge, for example, the National Trust has to deal with one drone incident per day. This is particularly problematic since the historic monument is located close to Salisbury Plain military training ground, which plays host to a range of low-flying aircraft.
To help combat the problem, the government has introduced tighter regulations for consumer drones. From July 2018, owners of drones weighing over 250 grams will have to register the details of their UAV and complete a drone safety awareness test.
The new legislation is designed to limit the irresponsible flying of the devices, which is largely the result of ignorance about the current rules. However, they do little to dissuade determined criminals who will still be able to obtain drones without registering them.
How are public spaces currently protected from drones?
Public spaces pose a unique problem because they are exposed, managed by councils with limited budgets and often located in the middle of busy metropolitan areas. Currently, threats are being contained by a combination of no-fly zones and tightened legislation.
All of London’s Royal Parks are currently protected by no-fly zones, for example, along with most of the UK’s national parks. Drones can still be flown in the Lake District and most of London’s heaths, including Hampstead Heath and Blackheath, so long as they are flown in accordance with the UK drone code. Operators who fail to observe the drone code risk having their device confiscated under new police powers.
While new legislation and the implementation of no-fly zones are useful in combating nuisance drone flights, they do little to prevent malicious events. With drones becoming ever more accessible, the threat to the public is real and increasing every day.
A survey carried out at a recent drone security conference in London, showed that close to 80% of the delegates surveyed believed a major security incident involving drones in civilian airspace was strongly likely or almost certain to happen within the next five years.
How can public spaces be better protected?
It is clear then that no-fly zones are not the answer for providing long-term protection for members of the public. A more robust drone monitoring and mitigation solution is one answer. But the sheer size and diversity of public spaces make them a challenge for conventional drone mitigation systems to manage.
For example, it would be prohibitively expensive to install and monitor a fixed drone mitigation system able to provide protection for all 912 sq miles of the Lake District. The installation of the required aerials in an area of outstanding natural beauty is also not going to go down well with locals.
One solution could be to use a cost-effective mobile detection system such as DJI’s AeroScope. This scans the airwaves for the tell-tale communications link between the drone and ground controller. AeroScope then intercepts this information to gather the drones registration number along with basic telemetry and location data.
The main advantage of AeroScope is its portability, the entire system is compact enough to fit inside a small case. This allows mobile operators to monitor large areas of parkland at relatively low cost. Park rangers, for example, could be equipped with AeroScope units to help monitor and protect airspace. This is without the expense of manning a central control room.
While the system relies on drone users having registered their device, to obtain the necessary information, it highlights the position of devices which are not registered. In areas where no-fly zones are not in force, this allows monitors to quickly establish the drones which are complying with the rules and those which are not.
These are the devices which authorities are most interested in and the ones which require further investigation. If an unregistered drone is spotted on AeroScope, staff can be dispatched to speak with the pilot, while law-abiding drone users can be left to enjoy their hobby.
With an estimated 27,000 drones set to be flying in UK airspace by 2030, the managers of parks and recreation facilities need to take drone monitoring seriously. The public has a right to know the area is protected from both irresponsible drone pilots and those with malicious intentions.
AeroScope provides a cost-effective, easy to implement, solution. It allows park owners and local authorities to ensure drones operating on their land are doing so in accordance with the law.
For more information about how AeroScope can help to protect public spaces, get in touch with the drone mitigation experts at COPTRZ. We can arrange a demonstration of the system to show you how effective it is at identifying rogue drone flights on your property.