What is the the drone threat to critical infrastructure?
The drone threat to critical infrastructure is real, in this blog you will find out:
- The different drone threats to critical infrastructure
- What this mean for the drone industry
- How the Martek Anti-Drone system combats this threat
You may have seen the headlines – ‘drones present a major threat to critical infrastructure.’ In between news of the airport shutdowns, attacks using drones and the general proliferation of drones (an estimated 22 million will be used by 2020) however, you may be wondering if this is a media storm or something that indeed warrants your attention if you are responsible for an area of critical infrastructure.
Despite being used to benefit infrastructure in many ways – from drones being used to make inspections, increasing surveillance and improve response times, these beneficial uses and other commercial applications must be preserved whilst also recognising that drones can represent a perfect vehicle for terror groups, political groups and individuals to launch attacks – and the most logical place for them to hit for the most impact will be critical infrastructure.
When it comes to what’s possible, to excuse the pun, the sky is the limit. Zoom lenses allow photographs to be taken. Video surveillance is possible, taking in key information about people, places, and products, whilst covert listening technology makes invading privacy nearly undetectable without the right anti-drone technology in place. Finally, and most threateningly, airborne attack and remote aerial hacking make it very possible for chaos to be delivered from above the air space.
Consequently, infrastructure security from drones is a new and pressing concern for many.
What is the risk for critical infrastructure from drones?
The most obvious worry for any piece of infrastructure is mass – masses of people, product or production. As the news has reported, densely populated events can be infiltrated by drones such as sporting events, where they can be flown into stadiums, but this also extends to sensitive facilities, and the capabilities of even a basic drone has made it possible for anovice pilot to take their drone into places a person would be unable to trespass by foot. A weaponised drone is a very real modern threat, and the capabilities to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance is one of the obvious draws for the devices.
Sadly, concern over drones isn’t just about those in charge of security of critical infrastructure being against harmless high jinks that make the press. Terrorist activity can be undertaken using drones, and without the capabilities to remove drones or prevent them from entering the air space, there could be serious consequences.
What areas of critical infrastructure are at risk from drones?
Some of the key areas at risk are chemical facilities, water systems, and airports.
Protecting airports from drones is especially ‘of the moment’ and no doubt top of mind. Airport security is a harrowing experience for the average traveller, so can you imagine the headache for the teams protecting the airports. You may have seen the news that in 2018 terrorists claimed to have sent an armed drone to attack the international airport in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
More recently, protesters from a group called Heathrow Pause attempted to fly a drone within the airport’s three-mile (5km) exclusion zone in a bid to disrupt flights a part of a protest, whilst jamming technology prevented the move, it highlights that airports must be on their guard.
Drones allow airports to be compromised and if the threat is not detected, it can cause chaos and panic to the thousands of passengers simply wanting to take their flights.
As well as hindering air paths, malicious drone pilots often have an interest in reaching ports. News in November 2019 showed that drone flights have been banned near Dover port to protect critical infrastructure, a first of its kind.
Many other ports are acting to use technology to assess the situation at hand. We work with the Port of Amsterdam to help them gather more intel on the scale of drone activity over their port so they can manage drones. As they comment: "Given the potential increase in drone use at a range of sensitive locations, these promising trial results are attracting international interest in MADS as a way of safeguarding our skies."
Unauthorized surveillance of facility operations and personnel, storage locations and movement of chemicals are all possible using drones and represent a real safety and security risk. Any unauthorized use of drones for illicit purposes, including trespassing can represent a serious danger, especially when chemicals are involved.
As recently as October 2019 ExxonMobil, which runs the largest petrochemical complex and refinery in the UK, Fawley, confirmed that drone sightings were being investigated by Britain's security services.
One quote from an investigator, Cllr McEvoy, summed up drone activity perfectly, stating: "Operating drones over the refinery could be dangerous. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to identify the people responsible for incidents such as this. They could be doing it for fun or mischief - or they could be doing it for other, more sinister reasons."
In an interesting twist, recent news shows that in Vermont, agencies are using aerial drones to study toxic chemical contamination underneath an airport, using a drone to gather data for a map about what is underneath the rocks below. Again, drones have two sides. We simply want to offer a real solution to those concerned about the threat of drones to safety, privacy and our way of life.
Defeating a drone that threatens critical infrastructure
There are not many options for those in charge of national Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP). As you may have guessed, banning drones isn’t the answer and whilst air space can prohibit drones, legislation is no match against a real, targeted and determined threat. That’s why anti-drone technology is the next place to look.
As we like to demonstrate, drones offer real benefits to the planet as well as the unfortunate consequence of being used for malicious purposes. When a CIP is looking for an option there is really only one choice.
Drone Defence - M.A.D.S™ - Martek Anti-Drone System
To combat the emerging threat, COPTRZ have developed M.A.D.S™, the Martek Anti-Drone System that can help in all areas of critical infrastructure.
M.A.D.S™ is a modular system designed specifically for detecting and identifying drones within a 5km range, providing GPS positioning of both drone and pilot (optional configuration) together with the drone’s speed and heading. Configurable and escalating stage alarms in real time allow the threat level to be assessed in good time to decide on appropriate defence actions.
This technology is designed specifically to meet the need for deep, complex critical infrastructure and can be trusted to offer a real solution.
Download our brochure to learn more about this sophisticated measure to detect drones for critical infrastructure.