Anti-drone detectors will be deployed around UK nuclear power plants, transport hubs, oil rigs and other sensitive infrastructure to protect them from aerial terrorist attacks as part of a £8m Home Office project.
The government has quietly deployed counter-drone technology, which will also be used at major public events such as the Coronation of King Charles, the Commonwealth games and the Eurovision song contest.
The systems will be designed to allow police and security services to track any small or medium-sized UAV and use scanning technology to detect them even if they are not emitting signals.
It will enable law enforcement to better monitor restricted areas such as nuclear power plants, Government buildings, military bases, prisons and royal palaces, as well as no-fly zones such as major national events.
It is understood that security officials are concerned about the increased capacity of drones to inflict serious damage and physical or economic damage to terrorists in strategic areas or in major incidents.
When an unauthorized drone entered Gatwick’s airspace in January 2019, nearly 1,000 flights had to be canceled or diverted in three days, affecting 140,000 passengers.
Since then major airports have developed their own detection and destruction technologies to counter the threat, but the Government is now trying to create similar protections across the UK, starting with key national infrastructure facilities and eventually across the UK.
Despite an assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in August 2018 with two small drones carrying explosives detonated during his open-air speech, terrorists have so far only deployed drones to war zones.
Beyond the fight against terrorism, authorities see the next biggest threat as prisons, which has doubled in detection of drones used by organized crime gangs to transport drugs, phones and weapons to prisons in the past year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office is working closely with the police to ensure they can deter, detect and block the misuse of drones and keep the public safe.
“We are empowering police and other operational response teams through access to the latest developments in counter-drone capabilities, training and appropriate legislative powers. However, it is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on safety regulations.”
Anyone who owns a drone weighing over 250 grams and/or with a camera must register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to receive a number that must be displayed on their device. About 300,000 people signed up.
While drones are prohibited from flying within 150 meters of built-up areas, the airspace restrictions applicable to aircraft also include drones and ban them from entering airports, nuclear power plants, royal palaces and other strategic areas. Local councils and landowners, such as the National Trust, can also prohibit their use on their land.