Security, Privacy and that damn eye in the sky.

January 22, 2018 8:13 pm Published by

I’ve been involved in the drone space since 2013 and a model RC pilot since my early teens.  Almost every conversation with a third party highlights a concern over privacy and security.

Whether that be a stakeholder concerned over nefarious intent or a TV Producer keen to ensure no third party data is captured and held.

Most drone service providers will have some form of generic privacy impact assessment (PIA) on file and the more robust operator will most likely carry out a bespoke impact assessment dependant on the tasking and append it to their RAMS (Risk Assessment Method Statement).

So lets flip the coin.

What can you do as an events organiser, Local Authority, sensitive infrastructure operator or facilities management company to prevent nefarious use of UAS on your site?

Well we need to rewind the clock.  There are a good deal of ‘Walter Mitty’ characters in the anti-drone space, they have sprung up with the advent of the ready to fly DJI equipment in the last few years.  We need to go way back before Frank Wang (1) woke up with a bright idea.

The ability for those with criminal intent to use RC (Radio Controlled) aircraft as ‘air support for criminals’ goes back to the 1950’s.  But back then it took skill to fly RC aircraft.  The equipment had to be, in most cases, scratch built.  You had to fully understand model aerodynamics and avionics and this skill took time to build.  This was the case pretty much right up until the first stabilised GPS quadcopter took flight.  These quadcopters were driven by the cheap technology pulled in from mobile phones.


To this day there are very little issues with the established RC hobbyist community, the problems come from consumers purchasing equipment with little or no model RC knowledge and certainly no airspace or air law knowledge.  In this area education is key and the CAA (2), Police, ARPAS (3) and various stakeholders are doing a great job to educate this demographic.

But what about those with nefarious intentions?  What can we do to combat this threat?

In most cases, the news stories relate to small, easy to fly GPS based quadcopter with limited payload that take very little skill to fly and are often piloted beyond visual line of sight using the camera feed.  These criminal missions often fail due to the operator having little flying skill, situational awareness or knowledge of the environment they are operating in.  Heavily built up areas are challenging to fly in even with the highest specification drone, if you rely on GPS.  This is due to urban winds, GPS multi path issues and RF interference.  Some modern drones do not even have a non-GPS manual type mode so the first time the operator experience that flight profile is when they are denied GPS and something has gone wrong.

The real threat come from those with a little more skill.  

Much noise is made about small GPS quadcopters.  The real threat is centred around those that know what they are doing, can self-build (thus bypassing Geo-fencing) and can create aircraft with payload capability of many kilos with a flight duration well over ten minutes.  Some of these aircraft cost as much as 30,000 GBP four years ago and can now be picked up cheaply from auction sites like eBay.

So what are criminals using drones for?  Our evidence comes from a number of sources but covers use cases such as over the hill intelligence gathering (before commercial property and residential property theft), drug smuggling and delivery (think ship to shore), peeping tom operations, illegal goods delivery, response time assessment, tracking individuals and vehicles and overseas many small prosumer drones are being weaponised.


Within ROAVR with have the consultants and skill set to carryout in depth penetration testing of your facility, to put in place robust control measures and procedures and if required provide event security.

The security professionals that work with ROAVR have operated all over the world in very challenging environments.  Our credentials are guaranteed.

Sometimes, the best defence is the right person in a high-viz jacket!  For down to earth, clear and current advice please get in touch.


Contact Us.

(1) Frank Wang is the founder of the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI

(2) The National Aviation Authority in the UK

(3) The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Systems

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This post was written by roavr