As we collectively breathe a sigh of relief, finally starting to emerge from the winter chill and looking forwards to welcoming the incoming warmth of spring, the anticipation for outdoor events and festivals begins to build. With the promise of music, food, and community spirit, these events bring joy and excitement. However, as we revel in the approaching event and festival season, it is essential to shine a spotlight on a critical aspect of security often overlooked: Counter Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (CUAS).
In recent years, the proliferation of consumer drones has added a new layer of complexity to event security. While drones have undoubtedly enriched our lives for a number of reasons, they can also pose potential threats when misused, whether through shear negligence or malicious intent. Whether it’s issues related to privacy, safety hazards, individuals attempting to capture the perfect shot of their favourite band, or the illicit delivery of prohibited items evading traditional gate search procedures, the need for comprehensive air security measures, including CUAS, is more significant than ever.
Typical threat scenarios may include:
CUAS technology supported by robust policies and procedures plays a crucial role in mitigating the risks associated with unauthorised drone activity. The technical systems are designed to detect, track, and identify potentially unwanted drones, ensuring the safety and security of event attendees. As the popularity of outdoor events and festivals continues to grow, integrating CUAS into standard security protocols is paramount.
Several high-profile incidents around the world underscore the importance of incorporating CUAS into security planning. Instances range from drones trespassing into restricted airspace during significant events to instances where the concept of restricted airspace was entirely disregarded, particularly in concerts and festivals. These occurrences serve as stark reminders of the potential consequences of overlooking this critical aspect of security.
One such incident occurred in July 2022 during a renowned open-air music festival at Brighton Beach, UK where a drone infiltrated the airspace, subsequently flying over the crowd and crashing onto the stage where Fatboy Slim was performing. The lack of a robust CUAS system allowed the drone to go undetected for some time preceding the collision and until it was too late. Fortunately, the incident ended without major consequences, but it serves as a wakeup call for the need to prioritise air security measures.
In a separate incident in June 2023, a music enthusiast received a fine exceeding £1,000 for flying his drone over the Download Festival at Donnington Park and near a landing plane at the East Midlands Airport. Despite operating within a designated Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ), the drone operator’s actions underscored a lack of foresight and a willingness to take considerable risks solely for the sake of capturing a shot.
Detecting such activities is crucial not only to mitigate risks but also to prevent potential economic losses and safeguard the reputation of the organisers and other involved parties.