back to article UK.gov: You can't have our drone test results because... er, security

The Department for Transport has rejected calls from drone makers DJI, Parrot and GoPro to release details of its drone testing methodology on the grounds of "security". The drone builders had challenged the government to show its working for a test it commissioned and cited as evidence for the mandatory drone registration …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Federal Aviation Authority?

    Federal Aviation ADMINISTRATION (Obviously this article was not peer-reviewed!)

    It sounds like the British Government is trying to present a fait accompli on drone usage, while not letting pesky facts get in the way.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Federal Aviation Authority?

      You mean like most of the others?

      That is, as opposed to the ones where they get expert advice and then ignore it. This way they don't need to bother with the experts.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: Federal Aviation Authority?

        Yes, I suppose HM Government's approach does have the advantage of reducing public spending on expert advice.

    2. gandalfcn

      Re: Federal Aviation Authority?

      Why is it that so many drone users are apparently complete dickheads?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Federal Aviation Authority?

        "Why is it that so many drone users are apparently complete dickheads?"

        Sadly, as with all generic groupings of people, the ones who stand out from the crowd are the dickheads, giving the often false impression that the whole group are dickheads.

        1. gandalfcn

          Re: Federal Aviation Authority?

          Which is why "so many" rather than most or all. I did not claim the whole group were. OK?

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Not just drones

    In another test QuinetiQ attached a camera and 2 car batteries to a badger and fired it an airliner. The result calls for badgers to be culled to protect the aviating public

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Not just drones

      "The result calls for badgers to be culled to protect the aviating public"

      Silly boy.

      The test called for the reintroduction of fox hunting, as they felt that the foxes were goading the badgers in to doing something stupid.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Not just drones

        So the foxes were goading the badgers into volunteering to get two car batteries strapped to them and then fired at an airliner?

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: Not just drones

          "So the foxes were goading the badgers into volunteering to get two car batteries strapped to them and then fired at an airliner?"

          Yes. That's exactly what's happened.

          A Tory voting Countryside Alliance chap told me that. Why would he lie?

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Not just drones

          So the foxes were goading the badgers into volunteering to get two car batteries strapped to them and then fired at an airliner?

          Yeah - they told them that the airliner contained squirrels. And, as everyone knows, badgers *hate* squirrels[2]. Damn small grey furry things, coming over here, scampering up our trees and eating our nuts[1]. Shoulda be law against it!

          [1] Ooh-er missus!

          [2] Except the ginger ones. They are OK. As are out-of-order subnotes.

    2. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Not just drones

      "Some of the most alarming findings in DfT's summary are based on an object that resembles a javelin more than a drone,"

      So ... it does not resemble a stick, a pole, or a spear - but a javelin, eh?

      Could this finally be the long awaited the London 2012 Olympics Legacy we were promised?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just drones

      European or American? I hear the American one's are more aerodynamic. It certainly wasn't a honey badger.

      1. PNGuinn
        Headmaster

        Re: "American one's"

        What about the American two's?

        Enquiring minds ....

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Not just drones

        "It certainly wasn't a honey badger."

        A honey badger wouldn't have needed the batteries.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Not just drones

          A honey badger wouldn't have needed the batteries.

          Or the propulsion. Powered by rage apparently.

    4. robjcamb

      Re: Not just drones

      Also frozen chickens.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Not just drones

      I hear they shoot whole chickens (after being plucked and butchered, no live chickens were harmed in this kind of testing, dammit, because I wanted to watch the fun) at airplane windshields in order to test them. And of course, an urban legend says someone tried this with FROZEN chickens and blew a hole through an aircraft doing it. (and maybe the mythbusters tested it, because they did have a chicken gun handy for some reason...)

      Anyway, keep the drones below 1000 feet, and the planes above that, and we'll be fine. That's what the fAA regs already say. And keep drones out of the controlled airspace around airports. Then we'll all "get along".

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Not just drones

        Anyway, keep the drones below 1000 feet, and the planes above that, and we'll be fine

        Might make it hard to land the planes though. And I suspect the passengers would object to being pushed out the door, with or without a parachute[1].

        I used to live in Wootten Bassett during the time that the Hercs were flying out of Lyneham. I had a go in a microlight aircraft and the pilot was most insistent that we observed the rules on flight heights in the area. Small 100kg aircraft vs 34 tonne Herc isn't really a fair contest..

        [1] Parachute status depends on profession.. Just don't say that you are a lawyer or politician.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Not just drones

          "Might make it hard to land the planes though."

          Did you miss the additional qualifier of keeping out of controlled airspace?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Drone Manufacturers Alliance Europe,

    I'm not sure if you know how this works but it's time to get the grease and brown envelopes out.

    Kind Regards,

    The Government.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Pint

      Yes, sponsoring the buffet table or open bar at the next Conservative and Labour party conferences is always a good move. Make sure you have very visible signage identifying you as the sponsor.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        You could publicise the event after the fact by releasing the drone footage of it too.

  4. smudge Silver badge
    WTF?

    could not find a way to launch...

    "The study's authors could not find a way to launch a 4-kilogram drone against an aircraft windscreen..."

    Had they thought of standing in a field and flying it using its controller?

    1. Alister Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: could not find a way to launch...

      Had they thought of standing in a field and flying it using its controller?

      Don't be ridiculous! Why, that would be almost ... Empirical!

      Government advisors don't do that sort of thing!

      1. smudge Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: could not find a way to launch...

        Actually, it is ridiculous, because the test also has to take into account an aircraft moving at speed. Something which occurred to me too late...

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: could not find a way to launch...

          It's true that safely simulating the impact is a problem. This is why the test requires a chicken gun, which I expect was why they had to remove some of the rotors.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: could not find a way to launch...

            "It's true that safely simulating the impact is a problem. "

            Don't we any of those rocket sled on rails things any more? ISTR that sort of contraption being used to test ejector seats in the past. That would give a more realistic result including the correct airflow patterns. Not cheap, of course, but a lot cheaper than having aircraft dropping out of the sky like what is not happening anywhere in the world right now.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: could not find a way to launch...

        Don't be ridiculous! Why, that would be almost ... Empirical!

        Government advisors don't do that sort of thing!

        Quite right too. Too much chance of not coming up with the "correct" data.

        Where "correct" == "conclusion that we've already paid for".

    2. Haku

      Re: could not find a way to launch...

      What about using gravity?

      You know, drop the small object onto the big object from a great height.

      If they couldn't find a tall enough building they could carry it up high using a bigger drone...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: could not find a way to launch...

        '..You know, drop the small object onto the big object from a great height.'

        Ah, don't forget, the rules of Government sponsored research.

        First you waste 60% of the allocated budget on a pointless feasibility study, oh, like dropping the big object from a great height...

        Then, of course, you need to waste a further 25% of the budget visiting foreign climes to see at first hand why they don't do it the way you're investigating in your feasibility study (Of course, the added justification here would be that there's the off chance that the UK could become the pioneering world leader in the exciting field of doing things arse about face..and who knows where this could lead?, one day we could be building aircraft carriers designed for jets we don't actually have yet...oh, wait )

        That leaves you with 15% of your budget to play with, oh, silly me, almost forgot, 10% for admin costs sounds just about right....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: could not find a way to launch...

          Ah, don't forget, the rules of Government sponsored research

          <SNIP>

          That leaves you with 15% of your budget to play with, oh, silly me, almost forgot, 10% for admin costs sounds just about right....

          Sounds like you work for the Research Councils. Except there's no mention of pointless reorganisation anywhere in your mission statement.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: could not find a way to launch...

            Except there's no mention of pointless reorganisation anywhere in your mission statement.

            Eh?, sorry, must have been distracted there for a moment...let's see, what have we got left?, ah yes, I think we can safely allocate 4% of the budget for the dance of the eternally pointless reorganisation..

            'Sounds like you work for the Research Councils.'

            FSM no! (I like to think that I've some standards left),

            I have, however, had dealings with the buggers over the years...

      2. Brangdon

        Re: What about using gravity?

        The terminal velocity of a drone is probably a lot less than the speed of an aeroplane.

    3. Steve Todd
      Stop

      Re: could not find a way to launch...

      > Had they thought of standing in a field and flying it using its controller?

      And flying an aircraft in the opposite direction at a couple of hundred miles per hour? Drones aren't capable of flying at the kinds of speeds that they test impacts at.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: could not find a way to launch...

      get the mythbusters to help them. Or shoot the plane at the drone.

  5. adnim Silver badge

    Like every government policy,

    it is not based on the level of threat as determined by an expert group, it is about control.

    Expert groups are commissioned to produce a report that the government will ignore if it is detrimental to what they want. Yet still lends credence to a decision because an expert group was commissioned to advise government.

    There is only cake when we get rid of the last bad guy/gal... Unfortunately that would leave us without enough MP's to form a government.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Like every government policy,

      Regardless of the Party that may be allegedly running the country, ministries have a time honoured method for picking experts in a particular field.

      Whether it's ag, aviation or the ministry of silly walks they find a siily old sod who may have been quite bright in his day but now has a knighthood and a nurse to remind him to unzip before peeing.

      The ministry tell him the results they require and he tells the people who compile the report, accurate research or testing is not required because the attitude is " But we're the bloody government, they can't question us."

      So, the drone report is a resounding success because it says the things they wanted it to.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If QinetiQ di- d the test...

    ... I fully expect there to be a gantt chart provided, which provides nothing useful bar a crowbar to get some metrics later for massive dollars.

    QQ are shit at this - their Malvern place is full of Cyber words on the wall, but they wouldn't know a pentest if it shat on their hat.

    Posted anonymously - not that it matters, as they're basically the dim brother of the doughnut-shaped place down the road in Cheltenham.

    1. PNGuinn
      Coat

      I fully expect there to be a gantt chart provided ...

      Or a gnat chart, Min.

      Thanks, it's the one with the Goon Show scripts in the pockets.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If QinetiQ di- d the test...

      They are the country bumpkin wing of the gubmint techno-intelligence gathering massive.

  7. PNGuinn
    Boffin

    UK.gov: You can't have our drone test results because...

    Er ... there aren't any results.

    Move along there - nothing to see here.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: UK.gov: You can't have our drone test results because...

      Er ... there aren't any results.

      Move along there - nothing to see here.

      Hang on, are you daring to suggest that ministers make up policies on the hoof, without any empirical data to back it up?

      Say it ain't so!

  8. DNTP

    Design the test for the results you want

    So I have this idea for a great drone. Let's take several dozen long metal rods arranged in a tube, and alternatively weld the ends together like any consumer hobbyist would. Then let's fill it with an explosive charge that fires the rods outward in a circular pattern, because that's what social media is into, annular blast patterns. Obviously this would be highly hazardous to nearby airframes so lets put a rocket motor on it so it can go very fast somewhere else (NIMBY!) and some guidance systems so that it's a drone and not just a, projectile or something.

    Holy hell this thing is a menace to aircraft! Time for regulation!

    1. ant 2

      Re: Design the test for the results you want

      Much more like the kind of thing Qinetic is used to testing, presumably.

      If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like an AAM... sorry, nail.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't help when you get stupid fucking Guardian articles like this one...

    https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jul/24/flying-drones-in-the-uk-wild-places

    Andrew Gilchrist drives all the way up to Skye (likely from London) or flew to Edinburgh, then drove 250 miles up the A9 to Skye, (the A9 has 100 miles of continuous ANPR Average Speed/Surveillance Cameras on route). Not an Error for American readers, this is modern Surveillance Britain - 100 miles continuous Automatic Number Plate Recognition Surveillance Cameras (We're just waiting to erect the sign at Heathrow that says "Welcome to Britains' Open Prison, have a nice stay")

    He then goes to the far end of Skye (it's not a tourist location on Skye by any means), to climb a munro (a munro is a mountain - 1000m/3000ft) called Sgurr Alasdair.

    This munro to anyone that has done it, is often shrouded in mist, is a narrow steep scree gully up. It can also be howling a gale, so you can hardly hear yourself think, let alone hear the noise of a drone. Which from my own experience is closer to the sound of Hummingbird near your head, than anything close to a dentist's drill (as he described it), FFS.

    The London Centric Guardian Journo then moans that a high-pitched whine drone is on "his" route/path, hovering above him, to scream "I was effectively on CCTV." (shock/horror in Britains' Open Prison).

    What it shows is how accepted the modern car is in society. How many people did he disturb on his 250 mile trip on his way up to Skye by car? How many people did he film with his Dashcam? Speeding past cyclists/walkers - those people having to take to verges, as he past. Maybe none, maybe 50.

    It's the sheer lack of tolerance here, with complete ignorance to how his own actions affect others which is so fcuking annoying. The guy can't see his own actions have consequence too.

    Also, its the acceptance that State Surveillance is somehow fine "justifiable in all instances", that we shouldn't worry our little head regarding how this data is being used to track indivduals, yet immediately a drone is seen nearby, it must be seen in a negative light as having a non-legitimate nature/purpose. So much stereotyping, so much unjustified pre-judgment.

    Yes, a drone can be a bit irritating, but no worse than someone using a mobile (shouting I'm at the top of X) at the top of Munro, while you're trying to quietly eat your lunch. It's called tolerance, other people have every right to be there too, you're in a public place. Yes, its Isolated, remote, you feel almost yourself alone there, but its still public space.

    The problem I have is there is a real sub-text at work here in this Guardian Article and it's total utter nymbyish shite.

    It's the pitchfork approach that says, wherever you are in the UK (you can be as far off the beaten track such as climbing Sgurr Alasdair - so remote, it's pretty much the last place legally (pubicly) you still can fly a drone) the subtext that drones are unwelcome and need to be banned. Even though 364/365 days a year, this guy would be lucky to see another person climbing that route, let alone a drone, or even a view from the top.

    The Anti-Drone agenda by mainstream media is palpable and when you have Governments refusing to release drone test data on the grounds of "security", it's when you realise, that is an full blown anti-drone agenda at work by the Powers that be, here in the UK.

    It might be drones today, but one day we're going to wake up and realise we're all in virtual digital shackles, controlling everything we do, as said I'm waiting for the sign "Welcome to Britains' Open Prison".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't help when you get stupid fucking Guardian articles like this one...

      I'm starting to wonder if they are scared that they will become weaponized (can't have the citizenry with the power to destroy can we).

  10. heyrick Silver badge

    The study's authors could not find a way to launch a 4-kilogram drone against an aircraft windscreen

    Conclusion - if a test cannot mange to launch an actual drone at the windscreen of a non-flying aircraft, the chances are that real drones messing with real aircraft are pretty slim (speed, size, air turbulence...).

    Instead, we must surely outlaw hastily cobbled together fake "drones".

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: The study's authors could not find a way to launch a 4-kilogram drone against an aircraft...

      The problem is in getting a drone up to the speeds which it is expected to impact an aircraft screen at. Don't forget that, in real life, the aircraft is travelling at 200+mph, to which you have to add the airspeed of the drone (somewhere around 50-60mph), so the combined impact velocity is going to be somewhere north of 250mph.

      1. lazarus
        WTF?

        How fast?!

        4 kilo multi rotor doing 60 mph with a gimbal capable of swinging a DSLR hanging off it. pull the other one its got bells on. any thing that size is not built for speed, totally the opposite its a camera platform, slow , steady and stable. Any thing capable of pulling that sort of speed is going to be a small racing "drone" probably in the sub 500 gram territory with around 4 minutes of run time per charge. Gonna be tricky to get one those from the ground into the line of flight of an airliner traveling at 200+mph.

        ....and what is the official definition of a drone anyway? Best official description seems to cover any remotely operated vehicle. so why are they only firing mashed up multi rotors. Where are all the planes, heli's, balloons etc?

  11. Rob Crawford

    Penetrated by a camera?

    I very much doubt it was the DJI glass filled nylon arms, the motor or the flight controller that did the damage.

    In all likelihood it was the DSLR (or less likely the battery) that actually did the penetrating.

    Therefore it should either be cameras or batteries that should be banned.

    I also wonder it was a tractor battery or something that they used

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QinetiQ

    To echo the prior comments of an anonymous poster, I too am not surprised at the outcome if QQ did the testing.

    QQ suffer from the usual "government gravy train" problem of being a complacent private-sector supplier to the government who is pretty much guaranteed to get the job (i.e. in the case of QQ if it involves "security", you can be 99% certain the government will be throwing the cash their way).

    Having historically had the misfortune of being in a non-government role where we gave QQ the opportunity to tender (not my choice to add them to the list !), I can tell you the place is full of middle managers, their prices are eye-watering and there is lots of "talk the talk" but little "walk the walk".

    Oh, and it takes forever to get a quote out of them for anything becuase everything is "bespoke quoted" .... hmmm....yes, a bit like how plumbers and electricians bespoke quote everything based around how much they think you can afford !!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QinetiQ

      Ah you see, if it sounds complicated, then it requires a Project Manager... £££...so if it requires a PM, it requires a Project Team.... £££... etc.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Scooters are more dangerous

    ...and ought to be banned.

    There is actual evidence of harm and it's increasing sharply!

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