Threat from on high: race on to bolster drone defences

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Threat from on high: race on to bolster drone defences

 

PARIS (AFP) – From hand-held copters that zoom around the living room to high-speed craft offering the sensation of flying over the countryside, drones have won over legions of fans — and are proving a growing challenge for security authorities.

 

Experts say models readily available on the market can easily be turned into a “poor man’s weapon”, a remote-controlled bomb or a means of filming a site in preparation of an attack.

 

“This is going to be the weapon of choice for those who feel that they are technically outmatched in other areas,” said Todd Humphreys, an engineering professor at the University of Austin in Texas who specialises in drone research.

 

Already the list of worrying incidents and close calls is long.

 

The latest was on August 4 when two explosive-laden drones were allegedly used in an attempt to kill Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a speech in Caracas.

 

And last week, President Emmanuel Macron’s security services jammed a drone’s navigating signals as it flew near his vacation retreat, sending it crashing into the Mediterranean.

 

An inquiry has been opened, with police divers trying to recover the craft.

 

Other high-profile scares saw a drone crashing onto a stage near German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013, and two years later, the White House went on lockdown after a drone foiled radar systems and landed on the lawn.

 

“I believe that this is a trend, and heads of state will need to be very cautious about giving outdoor speeches or outdoor rallies unless they’re sure they can defend themselves against an attack of one or more drones,” Humphreys said.

 

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