Dangerous Drone Encounters Soared in 2018

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The number of near-misses involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the UK jumped by over a third from 2017 to 2018, according to new official figures.

The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) published its annual figures for 2018 recently, revealing 125 dangerous encounters between aircraft and drones in UK airspace. That’s up from 93 the year before and 71 in 2016.

Just under a third of these (39) were recorded near Heathrow Airport in London, whilst 10 took place near Manchester Airport, according to the figures.

The former was forced to halt flights in January after a drone was spotted near the airport.

However, a much more serious incident occurred at Gatwick Airport to the south of the capital in December, when an estimated 140,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted after flights were cancelled for several days.

Incidents like this seem to have had a major impact on the public perception of drones, with 75% branding them a national security threat and 38% arguing that they should be banned, according to a Parliament Street report.

Cesar Cerrudo, CTO at IOActive, argued that the commercialization of drones has not been thought through clearly enough in terms of the potential harm UAVs can cause.

“Manufacturers of these devices are more concerned with getting their product to market than ensuring cybersecurity. But as we have seen, with malicious or even mischievous intent they have the ability to create mass disruption, as well as potentially putting passenger safety at risk,” he added.

“In the future, we could see drones move from merely being a disruption to being weaponized. As drones improve in range and functionality, and reduce in cost, their weaponization could become common as poor cybersecurity could allow commercial drones to be hijacked by attackers.

Reports emerged today that the Gatwick Airport drone operator, who has still not been caught, could be an insider there.

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