The Daily Telegraph

Drone tracking system ‘could stop repeat of Gatwick fiasco’


DRONE monitoring technology could prevent the sort of chaos that led to the cancellati­on of hundreds of Gatwick airport flights before Christmas 2018.

Researcher­s have devised a way to detect and prevent threatenin­g drone activity using statistica­l techniques and radar data to predict the path of drones by flagging unusual flying patterns or whether they intended to enter restricted areas, such as busy airports.

The predictive capability of the software enables automated decision-making. Study co-author Dr Bashar Ahmad, at Cambridge University, said: “The Gatwick incident highlighte­d the risk drones can pose if they are misused, whether that’s done maliciousl­y or completely innocently.”

To prevent collisions, commercial flights report their location every few minutes, but there is no such requiremen­t for drones. While drones are used in agricultur­e, surveying and e-commerce, unmanned aircraft can cause nuisance or present safety risks, especially when used by inexperien­ced or unlicensed operators.

Project leader Prof Simon Godsill said: “There needs to be some sort of automated equivalent to air traffic control for drones. But unlike large and fast-moving targets, like a passenger jet, drones are small, agile and slow-moving, which makes them hard to track.

“They can also easily be mistaken for birds, and vice versa.”

The researcher­s say their solution can be incorporat­ed into existing surveillan­ce systems, making it a costeffect­ive way of tracking drones before they enter restricted areas, reducing the workload of surveillan­ce teams.

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