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 …

  1. Steve Evans

    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.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      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...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        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

        1. 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!

          1. Otto is a bear.

            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.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              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.

        2. M man

          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

      2. Timmy B Silver badge

        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".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: yeah, that'll work..

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

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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?

          2. Peter Christy

            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!

          3. Dan Paul

            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.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        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.

        1. Vic

          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.

      4. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        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.

        1. Vinyl-Junkie
          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!

      5. Steve Evans

        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!

      6. Patrick R
        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    3. 's water music Silver badge

      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

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      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.)

  2. LDS Silver badge
    Joke

    Every excuse is good...

    ... to get funds to play with powerful lasers

    1. 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.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        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.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          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...

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        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...

        1. Chika
          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...

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. David Pollard

      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.

  3. Lysenko Silver badge

    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.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      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...

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        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!

    2. David Roberts Silver badge

      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.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        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.

    3. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

      Re: Drones...

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

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Drones...

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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

  4. Number6

    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.

    1. Lysenko Silver badge

      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.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        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...

        1. Vic

          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.

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            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...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

        2. Number6

          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.

  5. Barbarian At the Gates

    When it comes to drones...

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

    1. Mike Shepherd
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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!

  6. 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.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      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?

  7. RegGuy1

    Re: Drones

    And to quote from the PDF on that page:

    "I also decided to modify the fuselage, turning it into the 'Dambusters' version with the ability to hold, rotate and drop an EPP bouncing bomb."

    As that was January 2003, this technology has been around for far longer than anyone suspected. Where were our security services?

    1. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

      Re: Drones

      Expanded Parallel Port bouncing bombs? - Where can I get one? I have an Osbourne Luggable I could deploy as a controller!

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    "have drones automatically shut down if they approach such a space"

    And have anyone who lives nearby subject to a rain of drones falling out of the sky.

    1. notowenwilson

      I, for one, would love to see the ring of dead and broken drones at the exclusion limit around some prime target. It does of course then just become a matter of momentum. Sort of a real life version of angry birds crossed with ICBM targeting.

  9. Thaumaturge

    Not really a new concept....

    Being a crusty old geezer, I remember a Superman episode back in the B/W TV days that featured a bad guy blowing up buildings with RC model airplanes.

    I predict zero deterent value from passing rules against using drones to do bad things.

  10. Oengus Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Don't mention the war!!!

    I seem to remember that the Germans were able to rain "drones" (V1) on London without GPS or radio or even and sophisticated computing power. They weren't the most accurate or reliable but they would do the job. The fact that they were inaccurate probably made them scarier.

    A friend of mine picked up a Pulse Jet engine that has 40+Lbs thrust that would be able to drive a reasonable size drone (model aircraft) for less than $100. A little work and you could add inertial guidance, a bit of experimentation and you can work out the fuel consumption and determine the range. A compass and map you can direct the drone to a target. Impossible to jam, difficult to shoot down, quick to setup and launch, readily available materials, easy to find working designs, relatively easy to build.

    How do you legislate against these?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Don't mention the war!!!

      I think London should seriously consider banning V1s

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Don't mention the war!!!

        "I think London should seriously consider banning V1s"

        See, their mistake was failing to realize that they could have avoided dealing with any V1s entirely during WWII if only they legally outlawed them. Isn't that how it works...?

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Don't mention the war!!!

      I believe that some of the early V1s did have a simple receiver that enabled them to use a crude form of navigation by following a highly directional signal. Only about 25% of launched missiles reached their intended area targets, but what proportion of those were due to poor navigation I don't know.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        Re: Don't mention the war!!!

        " but what proportion of those were due to poor navigation I don't know."

        Not actually very many; the V-1 was surprisingly accurate within the aiming parameters specified. A British counter-intelligence operation meant that all the Abwehr agents in Britain had been turned and were reporting only carefully selected information to their German handlers. Emphasis was given to reporting only those V-1s which fell in NW London, giving the impression that the weapons were mostly overflying the target. The Germans therefore adjusted their aim, meaning many of the V-1s fell short of target. This was popular with Londoners, less so with the inhabitants of Kent, Surrey and Sussex,,,,

    3. theOtherJT

      Re: Don't mention the war!!!

      How do you legislate against these?

      I'm pretty sure that's already going to be illegal. I have no idea what specific law applies, but I believe there is such a thing as "Conspiracy to cause explosions" which sounds like it would cover it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't mention the war!!!

        Is there an offense of "Suspicion of Conspiracy to cause Explosions"?

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    Don't understand these things so I am going into default reaction mode:

    Squeeeeaalllll hate hate hate squeaalllll.

    ban ban ban.

    I'm not interested in them so ban ban ban.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Cat is out of the bag anyway.

    Wonder how long will it be before we hear of the first mass attack by drone. Any shopping centre or sports event will be a ripe target.

    Scary.

    1. Seajay#

      What is the attack on a shopping centre that you're imagining?

      Drones flying around inside it?

      Ok but what would they be armed with and how would they be more effective than the good old, leave a bomb with a timer in a bin and walk away?

      Blowing up the shopping centre completely?

      You'd need a multi-million pound military drone with some seriously difficult to aquire weapons to manage that sort of fire power. And the result is no better than driving a lorry full of homemade explosive up to the building for less than 1/1000 the cost.

      What is scary is your willingness to classify drones as "Scary" for unspecified reasons and therefore accept the Oxford Research Group's call that "Something must be done". Despite having read an article and many comments pointing out that drones aren't really a threat.

      1. 9Rune5

        "driving a lorry full of homemade explosive "

        Exactly.

        And many of the attacks lately have been done by people willing/eager to die for their 'cause'. How does a ban on drones (an imaginary threat) stop suicide bombers (a real threat)?

        In the spirit of fellow commentards: We should ban suicide bombers. That'll show'em!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You'd need a multi

        "You'd need a multi-million pound military drone with some seriously difficult to acquire weapons to manage that sort of fire power"

        You can buy anything at the right price and terrorists are not constrained by budget cuts and oversight committees

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    10x illegal

    It seems that the Governments response to everything now is to try and make it more illegal by passing new laws. I would be very very surprised if a drone carrying explosives in a controlled area isn't already breaking a whole host of laws so do we really need new ones?

    The problem is that as technology advances it becomes easier and easier to just build something like a drone that sidesteps any law mandating GPS enforced no fly zones, radio jamming, etc etc. I'm sure a sufficiently determined terrorist could build such a drone today. GPS no fly zones are avoided by using a self rolled flight system. Radio jamming isn't really a great solution as Mr Terrorist would just take a cue from missile systems and build a self contained internal guidance system. Ground based lasers will be harder to avoid but I can't see us deploying weapon systems like that all over the place for a while.

    1. Adze

      Re: 10x illegal

      "Ground based lasers will be harder to avoid"

      Use their weapons against them and deploy said drone with tinfoil armour? It's the ultimate anti-government armour cladding after all.

    2. Vic

      Re: 10x illegal

      Mr Terrorist would just take a cue from missile systems and build a self contained internal guidance system.

      6-axis positioning (3 gyros, 3 accelerometers). Available on eBay for £1.25 (they've gone up - used to be 99p).

      VIc.

  14. M7S

    One way for governments not to worry about RPVs

    might be to not ship them directly to "the enemy"

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35259429

    (Yes, I know its apparently inert, but still a fun fact for today)

  15. smartypants

    Re: aircraft

    While being against hyperbole, it is a thing now that some idiots regularly take to trying to blind pilots with lasers, and it's getting to the point where consumer gadgets in the hands of these same people might eventually cause the equivalent of a bird strike, at which point expect everyone to go nuts and the government to get what they want.

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: aircraft

      it's getting to the point where consumer gadgets in the hands of these same people might eventually cause the equivalent of a bird strike

      Which planes can take. Bird strikes are a thing we know happens. Not a lot of crashes because of bird strikes

      at which point expect everyone to go nuts and the government to get what they want.

      And here you nail the crux of the problem. People are idiots :(

      1. Naselus Silver badge

        Re: aircraft

        "Which planes can take. Bird strikes are a thing we know happens. Not a lot of crashes because of bird strikes"

        Now make the bird out a metal and plastic and see what happens.

      2. smartypants

        Re: aircraft

        My point isn't that an aircraft will be downed. I expect a modern engine to ingest a drone without causing the aircraft to crash.

        My point is that such an event quickly gets people on board the side of a government hoping for sweeping new powers.

        1. theOtherJT

          Re: aircraft

          My point isn't that an aircraft will be downed. I expect a modern engine to ingest a drone without causing the aircraft to crash.

          My point is that such an event quickly gets people on board the side of a government hoping for sweeping new powers.

          I agree completely. IIRC they test jet engines by firing frozen turkeys into them out of an air-cannon* I don't see any little commercial sized drone doing more damage than that. You've correctly identified the problem: People are idiots :(

          *If that's not true, please don't correct me it'll shatter a hilarious mental image I've had for years!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: aircraft

            such tests do occur, I recall one where they forgot to defrost the chicken they used - described as overkill when examining the result. No, it wasnt an engine being tested.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: aircraft

              Are frozen chickens a common component of airport fauna?

  16. That MrKrotos Bloke

    I build, fly and crash RC helicopters and planes. This whole "drone" thing is just news hype.

    As someone has said already RC is nothing new, there have been bigger and more capable models available for years.

  17. Heironymous Coward
    Boffin

    average???

    Uh, why is the average flight time and average range of "over 200 commercial drones" meaningful when determining whether a terrorist-piloted drone is a dangerous prospect? 200 commercial models is a very good sample size, great that they found out the parameters of all those models. But then they should look at the drones with the highest values of flight time and range and load, and determine which (if any) of them could be used in a terrorist attack.

    The average isn't even relevant if one assumes a terrorist will just go out and buy a random one, since they might pick a model appropriate for their needs...

  18. theOtherJT

    Terrorism is easy...

    ...which is why I remain utterly unconvinced that it exists, at least in the form we're having blasted at us by the government all the time.

    If there really were organized cells of secret agent grade terrorists out there - as opposed to a tiny handful of disaffected radicals with delusions of martyrdom - we'd be seeing hundreds of deaths a week, but as it stands large scale attacks like occurred in Paris last year are crazy, astonishingly rare.

    Oh, and did those people use sophisticated technological solutions to kill people? No. They bought some cheap assault weapons and shot up some crowded places. That's trivial to do. Basically any idiot can do that, and even that involved actually getting hold of guns, which is at least moderately hard this side of the pond. Think how much damage you could do simply by deliberately driving a few cars off of motorway bridges into the traffic below. That's a guaranteed death toll - not to mention the economic damage done by closing the motorways - and all you need to pull that off is a copy of autotrader and 500 quid for a 15 year old banger.

    Seriously, terrorism is easy. Given that we don't have bodies piling up in the streets practically daily, we clearly don't need more laws to protect ourselves from people who might do those sorts of things because either they don't exist, or the laws we have are already sufficient to catch them before they kill anyone the vast majority of the time.

  19. John Sturdy
    Coat

    Featherweight armament for attacking meatbags

    You could terrorize a crowd (in, say, a shopping mall) with a quadcopter with sharpened metal rotor blades, with face detection software on the onboard computer, and programming it to aim just below the face, i.e. go for the throat. It would weigh little more than a standard one, and look the same except when examined very close up with the motors off.

    Not too hard to defeat by people who're not panicking, but that won't always apply.

    So a weaponized drone isn't going to be that easy to distinguish. Hope that doesn't encourage them to ban them all, though.

    Mine's the kevlar hoodie with steel mesh balaclava, thanks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Featherweight armament for attacking meatbags

      Where do you get that hoodie? I want one..

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Featherweight armament for attacking meatbags

      We need a constitutional amendment for the right to bear badminton rackets and a Nation Racket Association to defend our freedom to defend ourselves from small model helicopters.

      Obviously following a series of tragic incidents in schools squash rackets will be banned

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    invest in the development of military-style lasers and drone-tracking systems

    and look, by pure coincidence, there's this company with a range of military-style lasers and drone-tracking systems willing to meet the challange....

  21. Joeman

    Terrorists have to use drones because they aren't skilled enough to fly proper RC planes or helicopters which have been around for many years and never to my knowledge been use for terrorism!!

    Fortunately im a skilled RC-heli pilot so be afraid if i ever decide to turn terrorist!!

  22. Unep Eurobats
    Childcatcher

    Limited window for legislation

    At the moment they're sufficiently niche for most people not to care about restrictions, so now is the time to introduce those restrictions, as far as the government's concerned.

    At the moment, it's a case of 'A drone might fall on you - ban them.'

    Eventually it'll be 'A drone might fall on you - wear a helmet.'

  23. The March Hare

    Aircraft

    birdstrikes do actually cause aircraft accidents - see this for an example:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

  24. flangeorificial

    Model aircraft capable of carrying a lot of explosives, GPS, and cameras have been available for a long time. You can trust politicians to faff on new technology, ignoring the fact that someone could have flown a model jet into parliament with a bunch of high explosives on board 20 years ago.

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