Published: July 16, 2015

Increasingly affordable technology such as UAVs or drones presents a range of new threats to corporate and personal security. Stuart Fraser, Pilgrims Intelligence Analyst, looks at the challenges they represent.

April 2015: An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) landed on the roof of the personal residence of the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. It was later determined that the UAV’s payload, a plastic container, contained trace elements of the radioactive element caesium, although not enough to cause physical harm. This incident has followed various high-profile uses of UAVs:

January 2015: A UAV quadcopter (pictured) was flown into the grounds of the US White House by an inebriated member of a US government intelligence agency. Reportedly, the official lost control. He had been controlling it from a few city blocks distance.
The UAV, a DJI Phantom, was spotted by a White House staffer although it could not be prevented from entering the secure perimeter.

The Threat:

Small UAVs (SUAVs) of the type utilised in the above incidents represent a new, and difficult to fully counter, threat for a variety of organisations and facilities. This is a result of both the new technologies involved and the absence of a comprehensive regulatory response.

While small, remotely-controlled platforms (left) have been in existence since 1937, with widespread commercial availability from the 1970s; the technologies involved have only recently begun to represent a conceivable threat. This is primarily the result of advances in miniaturisation of electronics, widespread accessibility of GPS navigation and improvements
in battery-life.

The military usage of UAVs in the last decade (most notably for combat and reconnaissance missions, see below right) also undoubtedly stimulated the public perception of such systems and assisted with the development of relevant technologies. This process has led to the development of small, difficult to detect (either visually or through the use of monitoring / surveillance technologies) aerial platforms which have the capability to penetrate (via overflight) fixed ground-based perimeters.

While a fence / wall has historically offered a physical barrier to pedestrians or vehicles, it represents no obstacle for an SUAV. Consequently, the threat is that anyone with access to such a system can now (remotely) access secured facilities…

This feature goes on to cover:

• Assessment of the threat posed by UAVs
• Advances in UAV capabilities and payloads.
• Response to potentially hostile UAVs
• The legal framework
• Physical countermeasures
• Recommendations
• Future evolution of UAVs