#Future Tech

British tech to the rescue as drones pose threat to civil aviation

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There has been a massive proliferation of civilian drone technology in recent years. Consumers are spoilt for choice with numerous products of varying designs specifications and sizes up for grabs, some of them at dirt cheap rates. For instance, in the UK, a tiny entry-level quad copter with none of the bells and whistles can be had all for the price of 10 quid ($14). Throw in another 40 and you can have one with cameras.

But not everyone is happy with the situation. Aviation security experts and authorities are none too pleased with this new threat to aircraft safety on their horizons. They already have their plates full, thanks to the threat posed by birds for aircraft in the vicinity of airports.

Pilots and major airports around the world are reporting increased incidences of drone sighting in their airspace these days. In the past 5 months in the UK, there were 23 drone related incidents(12 of them near-misses) reported by the Civil Aviation Authority. The situation is far more serious in the US, with their FAA reporting over 600 drone sightings in the latter half of 2015 alone.

Though the numbers of actual reported drone collisions with aircraft are minuscule compared to damage caused by our feathered friends, the metals and plastics used in drones can cause far more damage than mere flesh and feathers. They can shatter the windscreens of helicopters and seriously cripple jet engines. In view of the rising threat, the US FAA is turning to British anti-drone technology for help.

The Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) is a countermeasure developed by a trio of British tech companies, Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems. The AUDS, which uses signal jamming technology, has been selected by the FAA for testing in American airports to counter the drone menace. Using infra-red cameras that can track drones within a range of 6 miles, the device has the ability to block its control signal and force the flying pests to land, all within 15 seconds.

Its manufacturers claim that the system can also help authorities track down the drone operators and even assist in their prosecution, using video and radar data recorded by the device. The British Consortium, in partnership with US firm Liteye Systems, was selected by the FAA as part of their Pathfinder Initiative to handle the challenges posed by the proliferation of civilian drone technology.