The Security Minister Brandon Lewis today launched the UK's new world-leading Counter-Drone Strategy.
It will ensure individuals, businesses and emergency services in the UK can continue to harness the economic and social benefits of drones, while cracking down on misuse and disruption.
Writing in today's Times Red Box, he outlined why such a strategy is needed to protect the UK's growing drone industry.
Many readers will, like me, have been spellbound by aerial shots of ocean life in the last series of the BBC’s Blue Planet. Shots that would have been impossible if not for the rapid and exciting developments in drone technology.
Meanwhile across the UK drones are helping to keep us safe by helping firefighters view and assess burning buildings at all angles, or search and rescue teams find lost or injured members of the public in forests or on cliff faces.
Whether it’s transforming how we get around or how we shop, the potential of drone technology is almost endless. We are seeing a boom in drone technology right here in the UK, with experts estimating that it could contribute an extra £42 billion to the economy in the next ten years.
But, like all new technologies, with these exciting opportunities come new threats. The chaos drones can reap on ordinary members of the public was laid bare last Christmas when thousands of holiday makers at Gatwick airports had their travel plans ruined by malicious drone-wielding criminals.
Since then we have extended the no-fly zone around airports and we will be giving police new powers to tackle illegal drone use. Further action by the police, supported by £1.2 million from the Home Office, combined with investment in counter-drone technology by Heathrow airport, helped to ensure that recent environmental protests there did not cause further misery to the travelling public.
Whether it’s smuggling drugs into prisons or disrupting flights, we know that these malicious drone users are the tiny minority when compared to those who use drones for public service, work or leisure.
That is why it is so important that we don’t let these criminals ruin it for the rest of us, and why today I am launching our world-leading counter-unmanned aircraft strategy, or drone strategy for short.
It sets out how we will continue to protect against drone threats now and in the future, whilst being careful not get in the way of those working to harness this technology for good.
The strategy recognises that there is no silver bullet for this problem. Instead we need a wide ranging approach including new laws, new technology and public information.
Perhaps most importantly we need drone manufactures at home and abroad to work with us on international standards to ensure as much as possible that drones come off the production line equipped with safety devices that stop them being used to carry out malicious acts.
It also sets out how we will work with manufacturers through a new industry action group to establish these standards and build on the commitments made by the home secretary and our Five Eyes allies in July.
I am clear that those who make their money from this technological revolution also have a responsibility to work with us on this. And where they won’t we and our allies will be forced to consider whether greater regulation is necessary to ensure products are safe and secure.
We will also work closely with the counter-drone industry to ensure we’re staying ahead of the curve and enabling law enforcement to deploy the most state of the art technology.
On Friday I visited the science and engineering company QinetiQ and I saw first-hand the range of powerful devices which will ensure that the UK is protected from the drone threat. I am so proud to have so many of these ground-breaking companies right here in the UK.
This technology will be a vital part of our new mobile counter-drone unit. This will contain detection and disruption equipment, to be deployed by police and other emergency responders to protect major events and rapidly respond to drone incidents in a matter of hours.
But such futuristic technology cannot replace good old-fashioned police work, and the government’s Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill will give the police even greater powers to search people suspected of carrying drones.
This technology won’t stand still and nor will we. This strategy will act as a roadmap for protecting the drone sector and tackling malicious use now and in the future.