22 APRIL 2019
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Speculation that last year’s drone incident at Gatwick was the work of an insider brought the subject back into the headlines last week following a BBC Panorama probe into what it called an “attack”.
Whilst Gatwick was the focus of the pre-Christmas difficulties the fact is that airports anywhere in the world face the same concerns. Long gone are the days when a simple fence was the total security requirement. Will ‘drones’ be raised at the forthcoming IATA AGM and what has ICAO got to say, the UN’s representative when it comes to civil aviation?
On the Panorama programme, airport officials were generous in describing it as well balanced in the sense it was mainly of interest for public consumption. Industry experts, however, it was suggested, might take a different view.
On the “insider” suggestion, Gatwick chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe, who led the response to the incident, issued what was described as a “less sensationalist” wider reply, noting those responsible did not necessarily have to be part of the airport.
He said: “It is clear that the drone operators had a link to what was going on at the airport, be that a visual link, be that a radio link, or even using the internet where most of this information is available.”
On specific charges in the BBC programme, Woodroofe said: “There was no government-approved equipment that we could go and buy. The equipment that I have on site today, that I spent £5m on, is painted sand-yellow because it came from the military environment. This is the first time that it has been used commercially.”
Dave Eldridge of Chess Dynamics, part of the trio of British tech companies supplying Gatwick with the AUDS Anti-UAV Defence System, also presented on the programme.
The subject will be aired more thoroughly when both Woodroofe and Eldridge will be joined by the leading counter-UAS Metropolitan Police officers at the Metropolitan Police Aviation Policing Command Airports Counter Terrorism Conference, which takes place at the Heathrow-hosted British-Irish Airports Expo at London Olympia on 12 June.
BALPA has had words to say over the problem and at a national level the All-Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation (APPG-GA) and the British Model Flying Association (BMFA). Airports (and airlines) from all over the world should be watching this London event. Whilst the BBC focussed on what was a domestic challenge BTN believes that drones are an urgent major international counter terrorism conundrum that has to be tackled with urgency.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
David Bentley, UK/Manchester
As with everything else there must be a catastrophe before any action is taken (asbestos, thalidomide, the Herald of Free Enterprise, two 737 Max 8s fall out of the sky...)So we must wait until an aircraft is downed by a drone and crashes on London, say, or one flies in through a window at Buckingham Palace and blows the Queen's head off. Then the hand wringing will start. As for IATA and ICAO in particular I regard their lack of commitment to solving this problem so far to be dereliction of duty.