Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 26, 2020

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Drone detection firm helps protect York Racecourses

Crowded Space Drones has supported North Yorkshire Police in protecting York Racecourses over a four-day event. Andrew McQuillan, Director of the business, also offers some advice to event organisers on how to mitigate against the security risks of unauthorised drones.

CrowdedSpaceDrones-YorkRacecourse-20During the four-day Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, a partnership between North Yorkshire Police and the specialist Counter Drone unit from Crowded Space Drones ensured several illegal drones were dealt with. This ensured that the public, horses and employees of the racecourse did not come to any harm.

The operation monitored the local airspace to ensure the police could respond to any drones flying in the vicinity. It was put in place as a result of a recent surge in drone activity near sporting events, where horses have been injured, according to Crowded Space Drones (The Telegraph also reported back in 2018 that a growing number of horses have been spooked by low flying drones at racecourses).

North Yorkshire Police and the specialist Counter Drone unit from Crowded Space Drones worked together to monitor the local airspace and respond to any drones flying in the vicinity. Whilst illegally operated drones are nothing new at UK sporting fixtures, the reckless behaviour and endangerment of the public has become a more daily occurrence during “behind closed doors” events.

PC Paul Beckwith, Chief Pilot of North Yorkshire Police Drone Unit commented on the operation: “Protection of the public from harm is a key priority for North Yorkshire Police, and with the recent rise in incidents we devised this operation to help educate drone users and enforce where necessary. Every drone user should ensure they are fully compliant with the drone code and hold a CAA permission when undertaking commercial activities.

“I am delighted this operation was so successful, not only in protecting the public, horses and their riders from harm, but also in educating some members of the public on responsible and safe drone use. We believe the afternoon of racing on the Knavesmire is not an appropriate place to be flying your drone, given the potential dangers involved.”

Andrew Hamilton, former Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Drone Unit lead and now Director of Operations at Crowded Space Drones summed up their role in the operation: “We deployed a panel of Drone Detection equipment which is able to accurately pin point drones within 25km of the event and provide evidence of the manner of flying, altitude, pilot location and much more.

“Our Evidence Gatherers on the ground then respond to these locations and triage detections to identify if they are lawful flights. Where a flight is unlawful, we then notified North Yorkshire Police for their attendance at the scene and captured further evidence to enable prosecutions, where appropriate.

“Words of advice were given to some hobbyist users who simply had misunderstood the drone code, but more serious incidents involved CAA permission holders who were not flying in accordance with their permission. Evidence collected of this has been shared with the CAA for their own investigation and action.”

Event security advice from Crowded Space Drones

Following this news, IFSEC Global spoke to Andrew McQuillan, Director of Crowded Space Drones, for some further advice for event organisers when mitigating against the security risks of illegal drone activity.

The business is well experienced in the industry and has been responsible for drone detection at major outdoor events across the UK for nearly two years, working with the likes of Live Nation, Festival Republic, AEG, Wimbledon, Silverstone, Premier League teams and more. The company also responded for Counter Terrorism Policing to both Gatwick and Heathrow, for which they remained on the roof of Heathrow 24/7 for over four months.

Andrew commented: “In terms of what organisers can do, the first simple step is to have a plan in place and seek advice from the local Police event liaison contact. Not every event needs to deploy drone detection equipment as part of this plan. The second step is to establish the threat level. For example, if you have a venue or stadium with a retractable roof, can it be closed for higher risk periods to stop a drone entering?

“The final key step is to know who owns the land around the venue or event. If you can prevent lawful access to this land by drone operators, you can prevent their ability to legally fly near your venue.

“When crowds return there is a requirement for all drones to be 150m away from crowds, but due to a change in the law (the UK adopts European drone laws on 1st January 2021), this protection will disappear and is not currently planned to be replaced.

“We believe this will lead to much more of a drone problem at events in 2021.”

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