A commercial Parrot drone was able to land on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth unchallenged.
According to local media in northern Scotland, a local drone user landed his drone on-board the deck the aircraft carrier
The drone user said:
“I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no one about to prevent it from landing although were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.
The second reason was more technical. I received a high wind warning as I was videoing up and down the flight deck and my control system advised me to land.”
The drone operative later returned to discuss what he had done, however no one was available.
“There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.
After I posted the picture taken from the flight deck I got some flak from other drone users who were saying ‘You are going to make a lot of people unhappy’. I thought the only law I had broken was that I flew over a vessel I didn’t have control over.
I was a bit concerned so I drove round to Invergordon and spoke to the port security and explained that I wanted to speak to someone from the ship such as the duty watch or the captain about what I had done. I was only able to speak to some heavily armed police, I think from the MoD, and they said there was no-one available on the carrier as they were at dinner ashore.”
“No-one seemed too concerned, but the officer I spoke to said he would pass it up the chain of command. I was fascinated by the Queen Elizabeth and wanted to have a crack at filming her. I wasn’t out to get anyone in trouble. What’s done is done, and I can’t undo the images I shot.
I think if the MoD were in any way bothered by this then these videos and stills would not have been allowed to see the light of day.”
While the drone operative clear had no malicious intent, this begs the question, what if he had? The threat of small drones is something no naval ship in any country is realistically set up to deal with currently.
“Although there is still a large gap between the capabilities of military and civilian drones, commercially available drones are giving hobbyists, companies and hostile groups access to capabilities previously only available to the military,” a report published by the Remote Control Project said.
The report detailed ways to deal with this kind of thing:
“A range of terrorist, insurgent, criminal, corporate and activist threat groups have already demonstrated the ability to use civilian drones for attacks and intelligence gathering. The best defence against the hostile use of drones is to employ a hierarchy of countermeasures encompassing regulatory countermeasures, passive countermeasures and active countermeasures. Regulatory countermeasures can restrict the capabilities of commercially available drones and limit the ability of hostile groups and individuals to procure and fly drones.”
The report concludes:
“The government should also make funding available to police forces and specialist units for the purchase of early warning systems and other passive drone countermeasures, including radio frequency jammers and GPS jammers. Radio frequency jammers are heavily restricted in the United Kingdom; however, such equipment could provide additional protection and security to vulnerable locations and individuals by blocking command signals to drones.
Therefore, the government should relax the regulations restricting the use of radio frequency jammers for protection against hostile drone use around defined key sites.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Jamie Stone said he was concerned at the security implications may table a question in the Scottish Parliament about it.
“I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious. Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is to arrive in Portsmouth on the 18th of this month and we’ve been invited to attend. Ironically, the invitation reads:
“PLEASE NOTE THAT DRONES WILL NOT BE PERMITTED AT THIS EVENT. Measures will be in place to counter drones other than one being flown by the Royal Navy.”
We have reached out to the Aircraft Carrier Alliance for comment.
An MoD spokesperson said:
“We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously. This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is underway and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”