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Drones: Death from above?

Following a series of recent mid-air close calls, Philip Mason explores whether drones could be a viable way for hostile agents to attack the UK's critical national infrastructure

Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – have recently been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, following a series of incidents calling into question their safety when operating around other aircraft.

Probably the most high-profile of these took place at the end of March, when Prince William’s air ambulance was, according to a report by the UK Airprox Board, a whisker away from a collision with a drone while flying at 1,900 feet. Another close call, meanwhile, took place in January, 500 feet over a primary school, as a DH8 turboprop came in to land at Birmingham Airport.

While there is nothing to suggest that either of these near-collisions was malicious in origin, they do indicate UAVs’ potential to inflict damage, especially if operated by a hostile agent. The question is, just how serious is the threat? And what is the best way to mitigate any danger that may exist – for instance, if a drone attack were launched on a UK airport or other high-security site?

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