Urgent need to tackle proliferation of drone technology, Dubai police summit hears

Their use by bad actors in region as well as to disrupt airports and events around the world shows need for effective responses

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Governments and organisations must develop more effective counter-drone management to combat a surge in aerial security incidents around the globe, an expert has said.

Shaun Ryles, counter-drone team lead at British consultancy Global Security and Disaster Management, said attacks in Saudi Arabia and other incidents, such as the infamous 2018 drone episode at the UK's Gatwick Airport, showed how dangerous and disruptive they could be.

Speaking at the World Police Summit in Dubai on Monday, Mr Ryles said tighter regulation of recreational drone use and new legislation to tackle criminal activity would help address the issue.

“Devastating fixed-wing drone attacks on Middle East oil refinery facilities, oil tankers and airports has unfortunately highlighted the need to be more robustly prepared,” he said.

Devastating fixed-wing drone attacks on Middle East oil refinery facilities, oil tankers and airports has unfortunately highlighted the need to be more robustly prepared.
Shaun Ryles, Global Security and Disaster Management

“The common thread will be one of the organisation thriving and surviving in the face of that disruption.

“Highly resilient organisations are more likely to secure more successful strategic and operational outcomes in the face of severe disruptions, [causing less impact] on the economy.”

Mr Ryles said governments, policing authorities and private sector players will be needed to counter drone attacks.

Mr Ryles said better resilience planning meant organisations could anticipate, prepare for and respond and adapt to everything from minor everyday events, brought on by drone hobbyists, to larger threats and attacks by criminals.

To stay ahead of threats, companies need to regularly review their systems, processes, training, equipment needs, he said.

He referred to the drone incident at Gatwick Airport that resulted in the airport being shut down for two days. More than 1,000 flights were disrupted, affecting close to 140,000 passengers.

The Gatwick incident was the first time a major airport had been shut down by drone activity.

Mr Ryles said better management would have significantly decreased the disruption that was caused.

“There are many external security protocols that can significantly add to a mitigation plan,” said Mr Ryles.

“A resilient approach will by its nature also address the key components of crisis communication, and aftermath management which technology alone will not address.

“This was certainly a very dear lesson that was learnt at Gatwick years ago.

“Whatever the outcome of the drone incursion, there will always be a need to justify actions or restraints in the aftermath.

“One of the most striking and recurring themes that I've encountered working in the front line of counter drone activities has been the disproportionate benefits to be had from relatively modest investment in counter-drone education, training and awareness of the counter-drone technology landscape.”

He said investment in this area creates “more informed and less reactive procurement decision making” when dealing with drone attacks, which in turn instils a better understanding of the threat and risk landscape.

The World Police Summit continues until Thursday.

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Updated: March 14, 2022, 1:17 PM