police drone

‘Only a matter of time’ before terrorists start launching attacks with drones

Terrorists could use widely available drones to launch devastating attacks on British soil, according to an industry expert.

Dr Stephen Prior, who specialises in unmanned air vehicles, said that Isis was already using cheap drones in Iraq and Syria and was surprised terrorists had not tried the same tactics in Britain yet.

Drones can weigh as little as 500g, can fly up to 100mph and the GPS tracking system can be turned off, which makes spotting them difficult.

Dr Prior said eagles had been trained to take out a drone and an RF transmitter gun could disable the electrics. 

“I personally don’t design these systems to drop bombs on people’s heads,” he told the Cheltenham Science Festival.

“However, Isis has been one of the first terrorist groups to go and buy a very cheap drone, convert it and use it to very devastating effect in Iraq and Syria.

“They can go on a course to learn about it and nine months later they can build their own one and fly it around the world.

“I am surprised, frankly, that more drones have not been used to do bad things already. I think it is only a matter of time before somebody tries something.”

Concern over the illegitimate use of drones has ramped up in recent years, with both the US and the EU launching registration systems to clamp down on casual users who fly their vehicles into restricted airspace, such as airports.

Last week, a leading professor said that drone regulations are lacking in the UK, despite the growing risks associated with them due to the ever-increasing number in the skies. 

Dr Prior said their stealth makes drones difficult to stop, but that did not mean the technology should not be developed because of the good it can do.

“The smaller the item, the harder it is to see, the smaller the signature, the smaller the RF (radio frequency) footprint,” he said.

“As we have seen on the news recently, a car is a devastating terrorist weapon [and] so is a lorry. We built it for a purpose which was not terrorist activity, but if you want to create mayhem the tools are there.

“If people want to do bad with something they will, whether that is a knife they can buy in a shop for a couple of quid, which is a very devastating weapon in someone’s hands causing mayhem on the streets.

“It almost impossible to defeat entirely and all you can do is have the surveillance tools to try and observe those people.

“There is no magic cure. Even the ones that are regulated and controlled in the sense of broadcasting their position, the first thing the terrorist can do is disable all of that. Unless you play by the rules, you are not going to be able to deal with that situation.”

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