Downing Street warned ‘only matter of time’ before drone attack as Xmas terror fears soar

Afghanistan: US pilot shares footage of 2019 drone strikes

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The horrifying message comes after the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police and British Transport Police announced they would increase armed and unarmed forces across the capital over the festive period. That coincided with the UK’s terrorism threat level being raised to severe following two shocking acts in recent months. Harry Buckle, author of ‘Just in Case’ told that terrorists are becoming increasingly savvy and using a drone to inflict horror on Britain is now a “genuine impending risk”.

Mr Buckle, who has worked with both MI6 and the KGB during his time as a journalist, claimed that they have already been used in attacks in Syria and Afghanistan and are in the hands of multiple terrorist groups across Africa, Arabia, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.

He told “We’re doing our best to jam them, but the bad guys have jumped ahead.

“It could happen today because the technology is really out there. Don’t underestimate the risk.

“You can buy the stuff online. If I had £5,000 sitting in the bank, I could buy any of that stuff and have it delivered within three days.”

Mr Buckle said there was an increasing risk of “mail-order” drones a flight time “of 20 minutes or so”.

He claimed they have moved on from “carrying little go pro-style cameras the size of a bar of soap”.

Now, Mr Buckle claims, “heavier duty – but still off the shelf drones can carry IED (improvised explosive devices) flying at 75mph are able to stay aloft for an hour or more”.

He added: “More worrying is the fact that they can be programmed to find a target with pinpoint accuracy.”

The Metropolitan Police told its Counter Terrorism Command “works around the clock with partners involved in national security, to keep the public safe from the threat of terrorism”.

It added: “The use of drones for criminal or terrorist purposes is one potential threat we are alive to and we have a range of counter-drone capabilities to mitigate these threats.

“We work with colleagues in the National Counter Terrorism Policing network and with other regional forces, to ensure we are ready to respond to any drone-related offences.

“There are laws in place governing the use of drones – particularly in built-up areas, crowded places, airports and other protected sites.

“We would urge anyone who has, or is considering buying a drone to make sure they are aware of the rules about how and where they can be flown.

“We would also urge people to call the police if they believe a drone is being flown or used illegally or for any criminal purpose.”

But Mr Buckle warned that it was “only a matter of time” before we see advanced technology like drones used in the UK, and said he believes Downing Street would be their ultimate target.

He added: “Hobby-type drones lumping explosives and crashing into things is happening all over Afghanistan and other trouble spots of the word, so it is only a matter of time before that gets to us.

“I was so shocked to learn how easy it was.”

The unmanned aircraft have already caused major disruption in the capital.

Back in 2018, a drone sighting caused Gatwick Airport to close for two days, disrupting 1,000 Christmas flights and affecting 140,000 passengers.

The airport closed its runway after two drones were spotted.

Scientists recently announced they had come up with a system to prevent drones from causing havoc.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge said that a combination of statistical techniques and radar data could make it possible to forecast whether a drone is trying to enter restricted airspace.

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This, they claim, would allow airports to focus their responses.

Dr Bashar Ahmad, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, said: “While we don’t fully know what happened at Gatwick, the incident highlighted the potential risk drones can pose to the public if they are misused, whether that’s done maliciously or completely innocently.

“It’s crucial for future drone surveillance systems to have predictive capabilities for revealing, as early as possible, a drone with malicious intent or anomalous behaviour.”

Currently, under Civil Aviation Authority, there are strict rules preventing drones from being flown in cities like London.

The Home Office is also working closely with law enforcement and industry via the UK’s Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy, published in 2019. understands that, since publication, significant progress has been made, including working with the National Police Chief’s Council on a new national police counter-drone capability.

The Home Office has also provided the police with new powers via the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft (ATMUA) Act 2021.

it sets out the Government’s approach to mitigating risks to the UK from the illegal use of aerial drones, including facilitating terrorist attacks and disrupting critical national infrastructure.

The national police capability comprises a range of specialist equipment, vehicles and personnel to enable a flexible and effective response to the threat of drones, and will help to protect major events across the UK.

A Home Office spokesman told “The Government is committed to tackling the malicious use of drones and we are working closely with law enforcement and industry.

“We have worked with the National Police Chiefs’ Council on a new national police counter-drone capability which gives officers the tools to tackle drone misuse and protect major events, including the COP26.

“We are also educating the public on appropriate drone use.

“The police now have powers which means they can require a drone to be grounded as well as the power to take ownership and seize the drone.”

Between 1994 and 2018, more than 14 planned or attempted terrorist attacks used aerial drones across the world.

Major Thomas G Pledger, from Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington, has warned: “Terrorist groups have in the past used or attempted to use aerial drones to conduct many different types of operations.

“This included intelligence collection, explosive delivery and chemical weapon delivery.

“The rapid popularisation of drones for average consumers and businesses has created a market that will continue to drive the technological improvement of drones for the foreseeable future.

“Improvements will extend to sizes, form factors, energy storage, techniques for propulsion, sensors and the ability to utilize and integrate advanced computer capabilities.

“Collectively, these improvements will increase the range, lifting capacity and overall capabilities of drones, making them both more lethal and more difficult to counter.”

Major Pledger claimed that while the US has been working on defence mechanisms for commercial drones, it is tough to stop them.

He said: “Both militaries and industry have recognised the weaponisation of commercial drones.

“This recognition has driven the development of systems for detection and countering.

“In the US, the FAA has recognised that drones are becoming more ubiquitous for corporate and personal use—and that there currently exists no system for tracking and deconflicting airborne platforms.

“It has even proposed rules that would require drones over a certain weight to be equipped with a radio transponder to enable tracking. Unfortunately, as with most trackers, these systems are easily disabled.”

But Mr Buckle said more should be done in the UK.

He told that “most of the anti-drone technology is pretty heavy-duty battlefield stuff”.

He claimed that the Government needs to invest “three or four million quid to put that on every street in London, on every corner of Wembley, and Loftus Road, and West Ham and Selhurst, and Wimbledon”.

For more information about the rules for flying drones in public, visit the Civil Aviation Authority website.

Has someone you know started acting in ways that you know are out of character? Do you suspect they have developed an extremist mindset?

The Met has specially trained officers who can help. Please get in touch and report your concerns by calling the national police Prevent advice line – 0800 011 3764

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