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Terrorist use of drones hard to mitigate, warn experts


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A terrorist threat and mitigation report warns of the potential to carry out IED attacks using drones.


Date - 3rd December 2019
By - Chloe Livadeas

Prevention technology has fallen behind the developing risk of commercial drones being used by terrorists to mount attacks, a risk assessment has concluded.

The issue was flagged in the Pool Reinsurance Company's (Pool Re) yearly Terrorism Threat and Mitigation Report. Pool Re provides terrorism insurance to insurers and is backed by the government.

A summary of the report states “the adoption of new technologies by terrorists have accelerated” in recent years. One of these new technologies has been identified as the capability for cheap, commercially available drones to carry and drop improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and chemical agents to inflict mass casualties in the UK.

Speaking at the International Security Expo in London today, Ed Butler, Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Re, said he was “surprised this hasn’t happened yet”.

Mitigation measures need to keep up and adapt in line with the civilian drone market, which is constantly being inundated with new designs and technologies.

Detection presents problems in domestic settings due to the possibility of interference with electronic and communication systems that operate day-to-day.

Bringing down hostile drones presents an equally difficult challenge, with the use of missiles and firearms being unsafe in built-up civilian areas.

The use of drones by terrorists has so far been confined to conflict zones, mostly in Iraq and Syria. But according to the Pool Re report they have the potential to be employed with “little or no modification” in order to cause harm to the UK public.

In a reported attempted assassination on President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela in August last year, two drones detonated explosives while he was giving a speech at a military parade. The perpetrators remain unknown. This is thought to be the first use of commercially available drones for an attack outside a conflict zone.

The Pool Re report states that the most likely attack using drones would be with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) material. This has more potential to cause mass harm at public events, such as major sporting events.

This assessment is based on the weight of IEDs needed to inflict mass casualties and the fact that few drones are able to carry more than 4kg. The attack at Manchester arena which killed 23 people in 2017, for example, employed IEDs weighing more than 14kg.

Phil Cork, Head of Programmes at global security company QinetiQ, told the conference at the Security Expo: “Evolution of the threat is quick and our ability to keep up with it is slower.”

Akram Johannsson Mourad, Chief Commercial Officer of MyDefence, said: “I’ve been in this business for four years and after recent terrorist attacks I’ve started to think: what is going to be next?

“We have detectors and sniffer dogs in place to pick up threats at places like arenas and sports stadiums, but the skies are an open and dangerous area.”

MyDefence provides anti-drone technology such as wearable drone alarms and equipment which cuts communications with a hostile drone’s operator.

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Given that policing is a technological powerhouse we should roll out counter drone equipment quicker than you can say - do you have a budget code from your local approver? 

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1 hour ago, SimonT said:

Given that policing is a technological powerhouse

Thanks, now wiping coffee off my screen. 

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