The UK Government has been working to reduce the risks associated with illegal drone use since a high-profile incident at UK’s Gatwick Airport in December 2018, when a drone sighting triggered a three-day shutdown of the UK’s second busiest airport, disrupting the travel plans of 140,000 people and affecting 1,000 flights.

To address growing security threats by drones, the UK Government has released its ‘Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy’.

‘Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy’

This strategy sets out our approach to countering the threat the malicious or negligent use of drones can bring"

This strategy sets out our approach to countering the threat the malicious or negligent use of drones can bring,” says Brandon Lewis, the U.K. Minister of State for Security. “It will provide the security the public and drone users require to continue to enjoy the benefits of leisure and commercial drone use and facilitate the growth of the drone industry.

Given the challenge posed by rapid advances in drone technology and the potential threat, the strategy will provide overarching direction to our efforts,” says Lewis. The strategy focuses on ‘small drones’, those weighing less than 20 kg (44 pounds).

Countering malicious use of aerial drones

The UK Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy centres on mitigating the highest-harm domestic risks resulting from malicious use of aerial drones. They are:

  • Facilitating terrorist attacks, such as modifying commercially-available drones to conduct reconnaissance or attacks.
  • Facilitating crime, especially in prisons, where drones are currently used to deliver contraband.
  • Disrupting critical national infrastructure, such as airports, where a malicious incursion using a drone can have serious safety, security and economic consequences.
  • Potential use by hostile state actors.

Maximising benefits of drone technology

The initiative will also look to build strong relationships with industry to ensure high security standards

Over the next three years, the strategy will seek to reduce the risks posed by the highest-harm use of drones while maximising the benefits of drone technology. It will develop a comprehensive understanding of evolving risks and take a “full spectrum” approach to deter, detect and disrupt the misuse of drones.

The initiative will also look to build strong relationships with industry to ensure high security standards. Further, promoting access to counter-drone capabilities and effective legislation, training and guidance will empower the police and other operational responders.

Tactical response to drone-based threats

Because technology is rapidly evolving, the response needs to keep pace, according to the strategy document. Lewis adds, “We will therefore work to understand how drone-based threats might evolve in the future, both at the tactical and strategic levels.” 

The strategy will be to build an end-to-end approach to tackling the highest-harm criminal use of drones. It will also work to make it easier to identify malicious drone use against a backdrop of increased legitimate use. Legal drone operators will be required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and to pass an online competency test before flying a drone. Retailers who follow a specific set of safety guidelines when selling drones will be designated ‘DroneSafe’.

Unmanned traffic management system

The government is working toward future implementation of an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system, which provides a means of preventing collisions between unmanned aircraft and other manned or unmanned aircraft. The current strategy includes early planning for the system.

An Industry Action Group will ensure a continuing relationship with the drone industry and help to improve existing counter-drone measures and identify new opportunities, such as use of ‘Geo-Fencing’ to restrict drones from flying in certain areas.

Regulating commercial and domestic drones

The UK Department of Transport is responsible for safe and lawful use of drones within the UK airspace

The strategy will seek to communicate the UK’s security requirements to the counter-drone industry and to encourage a thriving sector that is aware of, and responsive to, the needs of government. Regulating drones is the responsibility of two UK government departments.

The UK Department of Transport is responsible for safe and lawful use of drones within the UK airspace, while the Home Office has overall responsibility for domestic counter-drone activity.

Fast-evolving drone and counter-drone technology

Also, the Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) has been involved in reducing the vulnerability of sensitive sites, including airports. New performance measures will track the strategy’s success.

Due to the fast-evolving nature of drone and counter-drone technology, the intent is to review and, if necessary, refresh the strategy in three years.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?
What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) make huge contributions to the economy overall. Considered individually, they may not be as large as companies in the enterprise market, but they have big requirements when it comes to security. SMBs also present unique challenges to security manufacturers and integrators seeking to serve their needs. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the security challenges of protecting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?

Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more
Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.

Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?
Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?

If you’re a security or facilities manager, you may already be aware of the quiet revolution that’s taking place across businesses and organisations up and down the country. By the end of 2020, 20% of all ID and access control systems featured mobile capability, and this is set to increase by a further 34% over the next three years. There’s no doubt that using a smartphone or mobile device in place of traditional credential and access control is a growing trend that’s only been sped up by the pandemic. It’s true that many businesses are still very much focused on remote working, although many are now starting to implement new-and-improved strategies that are better suited to protect the workforce moving forward. Mobile ID systems As the next normal becomes clearer, businesses will be reviewing procedures such as access control, occupancy monitoring, reducing touch points and tracking visitors. Mobile ID systems are ideally suited to this task. But what are the key reasons for considering such a setup in 2021? But why is this new technology so well-suited to future-proof your physical access system, and why is it becoming so popular? Eradicating outdated legacy credentials Have you seen just how vulnerable outdated Proximity card technology can be? Low-frequency 125kHz cards can be cloned in a matter of seconds with the use of cheap, readily available tools. Despite their weaknesses, they are still used by a huge majority of businesses – big and small. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential Replacing such a system with a mobile-enabled system is one of the best ways to increase security ten-fold. Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, mobile ID offers best-in-class security and cryptography. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential. Bluetooth Smart and NFC (Near Field Communication) make them the best product to operate such a credential via a secure app. If you’re looking for best-in-class security in 2021, mobile access is most definitely the way forward. Removing touch points across the business Reducing touch points and the adoption of touchless facilities has become a key priority for businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Even as businesses start to return to the office and operate a home/office split, it will be imperative that unnecessary contact is kept to an absolute minimum between staff. The traditional issuance of identification and access control credentials can pose problems in this regard. Facility and security managers who are responsible for onboarding and processing ID have done the process face to face. Mobile access makes it possible to carry this process out without people coming into direct content. First, the security manager has access to a secure portal, allowing them to create, manage and edit credentials anywhere. They can upload and remotely transfer mobile ID and access control credentials directly to users’ smartphones over the air. Via the secure app, users can view and see their credentials and immediately begin using it for ID and access control by simply placing their smartphone over card readers. Enabling a more flexible way of working The way in which we work has changed for good. Even as people more people return to the office in 2021, a majority of businesses will be operating a home/office split indefinitely. This once again reinforces the need for a smarter, more adaptable onboarding system. Implementing mobile ID is the perfect way of doing this: over-the-air delivery of credentials and security data is now a given, helping businesses create the perfect balance between the home and the office. No longer do people have to come into the office for the onboarding process. Increasing convenience and user experience More often businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security Ok, so mobile ID is the perfect way of increasing security and adapting workplaces to a post-COVID way of working. And we’ve not even touched on the most obvious advantage yet: Convenience. How many times have you forgotten your ID card? We’re sure it’s more times than you forget your smartphone. These powerful processors have become intertwined with the way we carry out tasks on a daily basis. They’re so vital that people will soon notice if they’ve forgotten it. From an employee’s perspective, mobile ID and access control is simple, convenient and extremely user-friendly. More and more businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security. From the employer’s perspective, mobile ID means it’s easier for administrators to manage access and credentials. Future-proofing access control now will ensure that in the longer term, mobile ID is well worth the investment. The annual expenditure of printing ID cards and purchasing credentials can be vast, while reissuance costs can also quickly add up for larger organisations. These issues are a thing of the past for businesses using mobile ID. Mobile ID perfect tool for 2021 and beyond Until mobile ID, new and improved credentials’ main focus was on increasing security. Mobile ID not only delivers that, but it also provides a more convenient way of accessing the office in a way that’s perfectly suited to returning to the office in 2021. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is the time. Summing up, mobile access is changing the way we access the office by: Eliminating weak links in security systems such as outdated legacy card technologies Eradicating the need for touch points across multiple areas of the workplace Enabling a smarter, more flexible approach to onboarding Increasing convenience – for both employers and employees.