back to article Beware the terrorist drones! For they are coming! Pass new laws!

A UK research group has warned that commercial drones represent a terrorist threat and new laws should limit what payload they can carry. The Remote Control Project, run by the Oxford Research Group, also wants the government to fund the development of military-style lasers to shoot drones down and the creation of jamming and …

yeah, that'll work..

"The FAA in the US recently announced the mandatory registration of all drones over 250 grams"

Terrorist1 - Okay, let's fly this baby to the target and drop the ricin...

Terrorist2 - Have you registered this drone?

Terrorist1 - No..

Terrorist2 - You idiot, it's got to be registered else it's breaking the law. Cancel the attack!

Along with all the other thoughts/plans, it'll only impact honest, law abiding citizens. Those bent on action will always find a way, the cat is well and truly out of the bag regarding how to build a drone. The hardware and software required are widely available and/or easy to build if you know what you're doing.

Lifting limit - Fit bigger motors

GPS walling - replace guidance system with one that doesn't.

Radio jamming - use a preprogrammed route

About the only thing that *could* stop a drone strike would be radio jamming combined with gps jamming, but then the target would get hit by half a dozen very confused self driving cars.

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

Exactly.

Though You can get (and have been able to for some time) petrol powered remote control helicopters that can easily lift 30-40kg so why the focus is on drones is beyond me...

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"The FAA in the US recently announced the mandatory registration of all drones over 250 grams"

Further shocking evidence that the Feds have a secret plan to implement the metric system and make us all French

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah, that'll work..

Along with all the other thoughts/plans, it'll only impact honest, law abiding citizens.

Well, at least there is now government funding (read: your tax money) to develop a means to safeguard your privacy. Saves me from having to risk a fine by taking the things down with a shotgun.

Which reminds me, it's time to develop a directional signal scanner. It appears there's a market for it.

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PJF

Re: yeah, that'll work..

...and make us all French

ooohh F. NOooo!

$deity help us all! I'd rather be a rebel redneck (and ALL pre-deposition) than the Yank I am!

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

Whilst I agree with your point for the most part there is some intersection between the set of people likely to comply with registration and the set of idiots likely to fly in restricted airspace or otherwise recklessly so the terrorists won't register argument is not fatal to the general principle of attempting to regulate drone use

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"Though You can get (and have been able to for some time) petrol powered remote control helicopters that can easily lift 30-40kg so why the focus is on drones is beyond me..."

That's because "drone" is a scarier word. and the Daily Mail gets scarier headlines like "Attack of the drones" rather than "Attack of the remote controlled helicopters".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah, that'll work..

That FAA "registration program" is to establish FAA's right to dictate law related to drones. It's only allowed to control commercial airspace and specifically banned from regulating toys. So it created a registration program, demands people register for free. In doing so they're accepting FAA's right to regulate in that area.

FAA can then apply its real demands, citing these registrations as evidence of its right to regulate in that area.

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Black Helicopters

Re: yeah, that'll work..

Though You can get (and have been able to for some time) petrol powered remote control helicopters that can easily lift 30-40kg so why the focus is on drones is beyond me...

Well, there's just been an announcement (introduction?) of a drone that can lift 100 kilos. Sure, it'll cost 10k barrels of crude a pop (at Daesh Dastardly Discount prices), but given their monthly trade, hardly an insurmountable price. Either 100kg of your favourite high explosive, or a bit less and some extra batteries for more range. And the first few times there will be some reluctance to shoot them down because there might be an innocent* rich bastard inside it.

* as innocent as a rich bastard can be, anyway.

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

I recall a conversation with an aero-modeller on Baildon Moor, about a competition his club had run for the most unusual object flown. A flying toilet door had taken that prize. Pretty much anything will fly, given enough thrust, and if you can arrange for the object to be mostly wing with a tail to stabilise it then it'll fly really rather well.

Stick on a petrol motor, simple height-maintaining avionics and a gyro-compass and this crude drone will then fly perfectly happily, maintain height correctly and follow a set path. This was how a V1 flying bomb worked; it really was not rocket science at all (Pulse jet science, if we're being picky). To control bomb drop, the V1 simple fell out of the sky when it ran out of fuel; any number of alternatives could be used.

Legislating against specific devices is silly. If you want to do something about drones, work out how to shoot them down effectively without causing trouble with missed shells impacting somewhere else. A super-shotgun may well be the best option, rather than lasers.

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Joke

Re: yeah, that'll work..

"Pretty much anything will fly, given enough thrust...."

See McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II for proof of this!

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"..and make us all French"

Unlike the rest of the world who use the metric system and seem to be remarkably non-french, other than the French who of course are anyway.

Merkins, tsk.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah, that'll work..

What is the practical difference between RC model aircraft / helicopters and Drones anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah, that'll work..

What is the practical difference between RC model aircraft / helicopters and Drones anyway?

The ability of killing so many innocents that it needs a euphemism like "collateral damage" to get away with it?

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"..and make us all French"

..Or Geman

..Or British

Or Iraqi,or Japanese, or South African, or Chinese,or Russian...or...bugger this here's the list...

...actully anyone NOT on this list....

..actully the list is shorter than the link...

Burma,liberia,USA

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"What is the practical difference between RC model aircraft / helicopters and Drones anyway?"

R/C model aircraft - and particularly helicopters - need a degree of skill to pilot. Drones don't!

Pilots who have flown both model helicopters and full-size report that the models are actually trickier to fly than full-size. In any event, a model helicopter needs to be flown comparatively close to the pilot, if effective control is to be maintained. Unlike a fixed-wing aircraft, it ain't necessarily going the way its pointing!

Drones - the kind we're talking about, anyway - don't need any particular piloting skills. They can just be steered around, and some can even right themselves in an emergency and return to the point of take-off.

So the natural filter of skill level doesn't generally apply to drones. Probably the reason they've become so popular amongst idiots, as a quick peruse of youtube will confirm!

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

"Practically" speaking, a drone can follow a pre-set flight path that could be programmed in. RC aircraft are usually remote piloted

RC stands for radio/remote controlled and a drone can be controlled this way but it is often autonomous until the payload is to be delivered.

EITHER method could be used for nefarious purposes and RC Aircraft can carry a much higher payload that a COTS drone from Amazon. (Commonly available, off the shelf)

Some RC aircraft have a 10 ft wingspan which means that the payload could be a significant concern.

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Re: yeah, that'll work.. Re: RC Helicopters

Probably because any idiot can fly a drone... RC Helicopters on the other hand are whirling blades of death intent on removing limbs from you at the earliest opportunity, or ploughing into the ground at the earliest opportunity...

That's my experience of attempting to fly them at least!

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Vic
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Re: yeah, that'll work..

Well, there's just been an announcement (introduction?) of a drone that can lift 100 kilos.

Here is a listing for a PA28-180, which will lift a lot more than that. A little modification to add some actuators and some FOSS autopilot software, and you've got a fully-functioning, high-speed drone for about £6K[1].

Trying to prevent bad guys from getting access to drones is already a lost cause. What we need to focus on, if anything, is stopping people from wanting to do bad things in the first place...

Vic.

[1] I've no idea why that plane is that cheap. But I've seen many others of a similar type for much less than £10k.

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Black Helicopters

why the focus is on drones is beyond me...

I guess the amount of drones one can afford for the price of such a "petrol powered remote control helicopter that can easily lift 30-40kg" is the answer, as well as how much people can easily afford one drone.

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Re: yeah, that'll work..

Unlike the rest of the world who use the metric system and seem to be remarkably non-french, other than the French who of course are anyway.

Though half a dozen of you appear to be seriously humor-impaired.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah, that'll work..

In the UK unenforceable law is not a problem.

It's perfectly legal to manufacture and/or sell a radio scanner able to listen to aircraft communications. But the Wireless Telegraphy Act, reissued in 2006, makes it an offence to listen in on any conversation you're not invited to. I guess there's a superficial sense to that in terms of "it's rude", but aircraft conversations go along the lines of "G-ABCD Fife radio request basic service and radio check", "G-ABCD Fife radio, pass your message".

The only reason anyone would listen to this is because they're nosy, they're plane spotters interested in who's arriving and leaving, they're training for a FRTOL license or maybe they have malicious intent.

Those with "malicious intent" will not take a blind bit of notice of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, everyone else's use is innocent, so what's the point having a law that in any case is almost impossible to enforce? Police or two witnesses would have to pinch someone's headphone or hear them using a scanner in a field, then have enough time to waste to prosecute them.

Unenforceable law fills the statute books with wasted paper/storage, and forces bodies like OFCOM to produce advice notes like this.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/spectrum-enforcement/guidance

Surely authorities have better things to do identifying why the secretive observer wants to listen to the messages? (And if trainee pilots and plane spotters openly listened to aircraft on scanners they could focus their efforts on people trying to hide their use.)

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LDS
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Joke

Every excuse is good...

... to get funds to play with powerful lasers

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PJF
Joke

Re: Every excuse is good...

@LDS

... to get funds to play with powerful SHARKS WITH F'n lasers!

TFIFY!

The "NEW" shark drone... coming soon.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Every excuse is good...

The "NEW" shark drone... coming soon.

The guys who built Orville the Catcopter and the Ratcopter are working on a flying shark. It's not a drone though, but essentially a jet-powered RC plane.

I should ask them how big a laser it can carry.

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Alert

Re: Every excuse is good...

The "NEW" shark drone... coming soon.

Don't give the SyFy channel any ideas for Sharknado 4, you'll only encourage them...

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Trollface

Re: Every excuse is good...

Don't give the SyFy channel any ideas for Sharknado 4, you'll only encourage them...

Only if it gives them an excuse to jump it. Otherwise I can see them droning on and on...

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Facepalm

Re: Every excuse is good...

Spend million$ on a "laser", or just dig out the trusty 12 bore?

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Re: Every excuse is good...

"Orville the Catcopter"

Having grown up in the seventies, I can't accept 'Orville' is anything other than a duck - Nurse, more meds...

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Re: Every excuse is good...

... and someone noticed that, as reported the other day in El Reg, "instead of being a program ... worth only US$4 million in 2010, the asteroid-detection budget has expanded to $50 million for fiscal year 2016."

Paranoia pays plentifully.

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Drones...

...terrifying!! But radio controlled model aircraft, which have been around since before WW2? Nooooo ... nothing to worry about here:

http://www.tonynijhuisdesigns.co.uk/Lancaster134.htm

...for example. It's only got a 3.4 METER wingspan, weighs in at 12.5 kilos, can carry at least 5kg of payload and (with IC engines) achieve over 60 minutes flight time. Ban it? Sure!! Problem is you'll have to ban WOOD to do that ... and radios ... ANY radio. Welcome to North Korea.

Most of these "drones" are just mass produced, radio controlled model aircraft with hilariously bad performance (ELECTRIC motors?? Seriously?!?). Quadcopters struggle to keep a 500g camera package aloft for 20 minutes, let alone any kind of warhead.

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Re: Drones...

My exact thought. And that Lancaster is on the safe side compared to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=potAETW-VG8

Considering that you do not need radio control after take off any more as you can build an autopilot using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi and any of the available auto-pilot stacks...

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Re: Drones...

Upvoted because I came here to post something similar.

Do the military use small electric powered multi rotor helicopters for unmanned strike missions?

No - because the carrying capacity of a fixed wing aircraft is so much better.

Fixed wing aircraft have other major benefits including the load capacity to carry a sophisticated autopilot which can deliver the aircraft to destination without any line of sight radio malarkey.

[Just checked and it looks like a Raspberry Pi could do the job.]

Not least, they have the ability to glide for a significant distance to reduce the sound of their approach.

So someone wants to control the proliferation of cheap plastic helicopters because they can be used for all sorts of annoying things like journalists taking pictures of celebrities nude sunbathing, and criminals scouting all aspects of a building prior to gaining entry. Oh, and smuggling stuff into prisons. This is before you even get to the bunch of idiots who think it is fun to shine laser pointers at aircraft and who would probably wet themselves with excitement at the thought of buzzing planes on final approach with their new toys.

So how to get the new laws they want? Because terrism. Simples.

Meanwhile I understand that I cannot legally use one of these things to do a quick survey of my roof, chimney stack and guttering because I live in an urban area.

You would think that this would be a wonderful tool for builders, roofers, surveyors, estate agents to inspect and photograph a house from all angles. Haven't seen this happening yet.

So basically, grumble, grumble, waste of time, stops me doing the very reasonable things I want to, grumble, grumble.

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Re: Drones...

Quite. Having just bought a house (in a quiet rural area), I borrowed a relatively low cost drone to have a proper look at the rather complicated roof to supplement my crawling round the roof space. Very useful.

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Re: Drones...

> you can build an autopilot using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi and any of the available auto-pilot stacks...

Why use an Arduino when you can just use a pigeon

Ban the pigeons!

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Re: Drones...

Scale model Lancaster? Hell No. I want a full sized Vulcan!

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Black Helicopters

Re: Drones...

Remember when the MoD were selling Vulcans off for £200?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Drones...

"Remember when the MoD were selling Vulcans off for £200?"

Actually it was a little more than that; they were £5000 a piece, delivered to the airport/museum of your choice (I believe Newark installed a temporary runway of the mesh variety to take delivery of theirs) by air, after which the RAF technicians would remove a couple of bits and you were now the proud owner.

I remember the figure because I was contracting at the time and damn near bought one. When I heard later of just how much they cost to keep in reasonable order, even when just displayed statically, I'm rather glad I didn't.

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GPS Blanking

So you take the drone controller and drive it around to see which areas it doesn't like, thus building up a map of places the government doesn't want you to access. OK, there's a bit of work needed to compile the list but it's a bit like giving the terrorists a cheat sheet. This also assumes it's not just simpler to extract the list from the device firmware.

I agree with Lysenko - most current mass-market drones have very poor performance and anyone wanting to cause serious harm with one is likely to have something custom that avoids all the legal restrictions.

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Re: GPS Blanking

Not to mention that most mass market drones use the 2.4GHz band which means they can be "shot down" by a £25 microwave oven after 10 minutes worth of modification (same as WiFi).

You can get a whole world of "line of sight" from the upper floor of a decent sized building and transmit a webcam image back to the controller (MCLOS). SACLOS or inertial guidance is also well within the capability of anyone who knows who AdaFruit are and where Raspberry Pi forums can be found. TERCOM? OpenCV can do facial recognition, let alone pattern match a landmark!

GPS jamming is worthless except against clowns. There are far too many alternate options. The reason MCLOS still exists is precisely because it is "unjammable". As with "strong encryption", there is no way to keep sophisticated technology out of the hands of anyone who wants it. There is probably enough tech in a Shenzhen generic phone to build guidance for a credible cruise missile.

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Re: GPS Blanking

Now you kinda got me wondering (in a strictly academic curiosity kind of way, natch) whether the GPS in said Shenzen phones still obeys those "stop working over X speed and / or Y altitude" restrictions that US ex-X-prize rocketeers used to have trouble getting past...

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Vic
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Re: GPS Blanking

whether the GPS in said Shenzen phones still obeys those "stop working over X speed and / or Y altitude" restrictions

I've used a phone GPS at up to 10,000ft and up to 120Kt. That's all you need for a drone attack...

Vic.

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Re: GPS Blanking

For a drone attack, sure, absolutely. But I think the restrictions I mentioned were meant more against an ICBM-style weapon - much higher and faster; I was just wondering whether the Chinese models bothered to implement those limitations...

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Anonymous Coward

ICBMs

...typically use inertial guidance with star map based corrections in the case of mobile launchers (particularly submarines). That is why they have a relatively large CEP (Circular Error, Probable), but with a nuclear warhead that hasn't really been seen as much of a problem given the destructive radius.

ICBMs are not usually designed to "hit" anything remember, they're supposed to deliver warheads that air burst over the target area.

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Re: GPS Blanking

The GPS restrictions on altitude and speed are meaningless outside the US sphere of influence. All that happens if you've got a GPS that ignores them is that the US consider it to be a munition and try to stick all sorts of export restrictions on it. I very much doubt if the Chinese are worried about that, but it might cause pain if you try to export such a device from some countries.

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When it comes to drones...

Never attribute to terrorism that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

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Meh

Re: When it comes to drones...

Nor attribute calls for research funds to real need when they can be adequately explained by a yearning for the next grant to pay the mortgage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When it comes to drones...

I think it's about Budget aswell. drones are dominated by China (DJI is Hong Kong and a $$Billion business). UK cannot be the drone maker now, that market has gone, they can't be successful military drone maker either, that market Israel has cornered.

So what can UK do in the drone market? How can it make some GDP from drones?

UK economy seems to be a) Charity shops, b) fake city assets (e.g. turbos deriative) sold fraudulantly, c) creation and enforcement of ever more petty rules.

I wonder how much of the economy involves people inventing new rules and fining people who infringe those rules, and hiring enforcers for those rules??

So UK can make some restrictive laws on drones, make technology to zap drones, enforcers to watch the skys for drones. Researchers to research new drone threats. License fees for drones to fund it.

You might laugh, but "Nanny State" is a huge part of the UK economy! Those hi-vis jackets don't wear themselves!

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E 2

Do not allow fission or fusion weapons!

Do not allow barrel bombs or high explosives.

Definitely do not allow Russian weaponized smallpox stock.

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Mushroom

The UK government are already on to that. In fact a few years ago, legislation was introduced that specifically made it unlawful to let off a nuclear device in the UK. I'm not entirely sure who it was intended for - maybe some of the chaps at Aldermaston were getting a little uppity?

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