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Amateur Drone Lands On British Air Carrier, Wired Reviews Anti-Drone Technology (bbc.com) 152

Long-time Slashdot reader mi quotes the BBC: The Ministry of Defence is reviewing security after a tiny drone landed on the deck of Britain's biggest warship. The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier was docked at Invergordon in the Highlands when an amateur photographer flew the drone close to the giant ship. When the aircraft sensed a high wind risk, it landed itself on the £3bn warship. The pilot told BBC Scotland: "I could have carried two kilos of Semtex and left it on the deck... I would say my mistake should open their eyes to a glaring gap in security."
Meanwhile, tastic007 shares Wired's footage of anti-drone products being tested (like net guns, air-to-air combat counter-drones, and drone net shotgun shells) -- part of the research presented at this year's DEFCON.
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Amateur Drone Lands On British Air Carrier, Wired Reviews Anti-Drone Technology

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  • Show me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CptLoRes ( 4510239 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @07:16AM (#55002303)
    a tiny drone (Phantom class) that can lift 2 kilos and fly an usable distance, and I'll buy it just to figure out what kind of new motor and battery tech they are using. Flying and landing where you shouldn't is bad I get it, but don't use obvious hyperbole to make it worse then it really is.
    • Re:Show me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @08:04AM (#55002423)
      It wasn't hype. If he can land a Phantom drone on the carrier and take a picture unchallenged, he can land a bigger drone and deliver a payload.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        On another hand, if you actually want to damage the aircraft carrier or attempt to the life of its operating staff. A remote controlled quadcopter, octocopter, plane or whatever drone you want is not the best way to accomplish it. Just use a RPG, bazooka or whatever other more efficient explosive payload delivery system exists. You will tell me it is easier to get an hand on a drone than a bazooka, however you still have to get some semtex which shouldn't be easier to obtain than a bazooka. Delivering two k
        • by tomhath ( 637240 )
          RPG or bazooka wouldn't do anything besides blister the paint.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            2kg semtex on the deck wouldn't do more.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            A shaped charge with burning copper will do more damage than a crap pile of stable compound explosives just sitting there. This query was answered over 90 years ago. Now if you really want to damage an aircraft carrier, you should go below the water line. Ignore the queen elizabeth's flight deck, that ship won't have aircraft for another 3 or 4 years. Which i would assume means that the best way to hobble an aircraft carrier is rely on the incompetence of british parliamentary procedure, & the dimwits w

            • Yes, 2kg was the weight of explosives in the classic British limpet mine. So well below the waterline it could and did sink a ship, but in order to reliably take town a such a large vessel, and especially a man of war at that, with more and better damage control, you'd probably need a lot more than one limpet.

              When the Norwegians sank the SS Donau (a 10000 ton ship, much smaller than Queen Elizabeth) they attached ten mines, and even that gave the captain the time to beach the ship.

              So 2kg of explosives appli

            • Now if you really want to damage an aircraft carrier, you should go below the water line.

              With a drone? I think a better strategy is to fly into the elevator bay to access the hanger, and then detonate next to a fuel line or, even better, a munitions trolly.

              Anyway, TFA is making a big deal out of nothing. It is peacetime and the ship was IN PORT. Most air defense systems were shutdown. What could they do? Open fire with a 20mm Vulcan?

              • by b0bby ( 201198 )

                I think a better strategy is to fly into the elevator bay to access the hanger, and then detonate next to a fuel line or, even better, a munitions trolly.

                Or the thermal exhaust port, but the approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the battleship.

              • You do realize that people who design aircraft carriers expect much larger quantities of explosives detonating in inconvenient places, right? They have plans for that.

        • by Elfich47 ( 703900 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @01:26PM (#55003325)
          Actually the drone can be very useful - The RPG is only going to get anything on the flight deck. And when at port, the flight deck is gong to be very clean. The real target is the guts of the ship.

          The drone can be flown inside the repair/rearm/refuel portions of the interior of the ship. Your entry point is the elevators are to move aircraft. It is a big hole on the side of the ship. The intent is to fly a drone through that hole and blow up the first target of opportunity (aircraft, fuel truck, arming truck, weapons stores, personnel, anything flammable). If you do badly, you only destroy one aircraft and the fire suppression system stops the fire there. If you hit the jack pot you blow up something important: air craft elevator, fuel stores, weapon stores, partially dismantled flammable equipment. Trained Personnel and possibly limit the capability or temporarily disable the air craft carrier.

          For the cost of $1,000 (drone, flight goggles, weapons, control mods and crash/deadman switch) you have diabled a 3 billion dollar aircraft carrier and caused millions of dollars of damage. From a cost/benefit ratio that is a success. If it fails the attacker is out $1,000 and can walk away without a problem. If the attacker succeeds, the attacker is still out $1,000, but the other side out millions of dollars.
          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            And with all that metal all around, that drone will need to be fully autonomous if it's going to do anything at all.

            • Heck, I'm interested in how it's going to open hatches on its way.

              • Look at the side shot of an air craft carrier. Look for the big hole in the side of the carrier where aircraft elevator is.
                • Some of the stuff you mentioned won't necessarily be on the hangar deck, and if such things as weapons stores are on the hangar deck, they will be secured by hatches..

          • Are you aware that warships since the American Civil War have been built to withstand small amounts of explosives exploding in side them? Have you looked at the amount of punishment some smaller carriers in WWII could take and keep operating? If the ship is at sea, it's going to be impossible to be close to it. If it's in dock, there will be dockyard personnel all over. For a simple $1K, you can accomplish nothing except get shot or brought up on felony charges.

            • I'm not attacking the carrier. I'm attacking the contents of the carrier. A Thermite grenade dropped on a fighter aricraft in the carrier hold will be enough of a mess. I am quite aware if the ship is beyond 3 miles at sea a drone attack is not going to fly. And if you are attempting to blow up an aircraft carrier with a drone, felony charges are low on your priorities.
              • If you can get a drone with a thermite grenade to target something on the hangar deck, you can destroy a plane. Aircraft carriers have been designed to resist hangar deck fires for a long time.

            • brought up on felony charges

              Oh my! That's going to deter a terrorist!

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Didn't the US government decided it was appropriate to give terrorists Tow Missiles. Though if you wanted to cause chaos, shooting a larger tanker at a critical location would be far more destructive and they would be far more likely to get away with it. I believe this is the reason why, the US in smarter is less lead addled fuckwit era though is was wildly inappropriate to give terrorist those kind of weapons.

      • This doesn't follow. The larger the drone the more likely it is that the drone will be noticed either by a person who sees it directly or by a technological system (e.g. radar). That said, it is true that if he can the Phantom it is highly likely that he could land a slightly larger drone with a payload. Moreover, 2 kilo payload is already enough to include a small explosive or a chemical or biological weapons package. So while your statement isn't completely accurate, the basic thrust is correct.
      • land a bigger drone and deliver a payload.

        It does not follow that if you can land a small drone, you can land a big one. Because that logic extends to "if I can land a small drone, I can land a Predator"....

        It should also be noted that 2kg of Semtex won't really do anything but make a scorched spot on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. If you want to ruin a carrier's day, the explosion has to be below the flight deck, not above it....

        • Fly in through the flight deck elevator.
          • Assuming it's open, of course. Then try to find a place that two kilos of explosive will be dangerous, when the freaking ship is designed to withstand much more powerful attacks.

        • Just blow up an F35 on the deck. That's a couple of billion dollars worth of trouble right there.
          Worse if the plane is loaded with a few big bombs.
      • The point is that while anyone can get a Phantom at Walmart, you need serious cash and a certain degree of skills for a heavy lift drone with enough payload to be of real concern..
        • And if you flew such a drone at an equipped, manned, military ship (none of which the article's aircraft carrier were) you'd be much less likely to succeed in delivery. Once you were collared, the authorities would also take a very dim view of your actions. If you weren't just shot on the spot.
      • It's a freaking warship, guys. It's designed to stand up to a lot more damage than you can deliver with a drone. A couple of kilos of Semtex? They don't make bomb or anti-ship missile warheads anywhere near that tiny.

    • >"I could have carried two kilos of Semtex and left it on the deck..."

      That must be a huuge drone

  • Even today, you can go retrofit a standard rocket firecracker from a local store with explosives and go shoot them at stuff. There isn't some all seeing security system that will stop you. 2kg of explosives from one drone isn't going to cause as much damage as people think to a warship. And I am sure if it was going to a sensitive location or a bunch were coming in, there would be soldiers shooting them out of the sky.

    • 2kg of explosives from one drone isn't going to cause as much damage as people think to a warship.

      It depends on where you put it. What's transformative about copter drones is that you have a very high level of positional control.

      And I am sure if it was going to a sensitive location or a bunch were coming in, there would be soldiers shooting them out of the sky.

      Fly them in at night at a very low level, then raise them up only at the last moment for target acquisition, and that becomes a difficult proposition.

      • Where, on a large aircraft carrier, is two kilos of explosives going to damage the ship, as opposed to possibly take out an aircraft or some people? (Bear in mind that it isn't likely to get any lower than the hangar deck under any circumstances.)

    • by hord ( 5016115 ) <jhord@carbon.cc> on Sunday August 13, 2017 @07:58AM (#55002399)

      Damage to the carrier is the least of my worries. If an explosive device ever went off on a British carrier, I'd be far more worried about the political response and what that would mean for freedom. The towers coming down didn't end the world but it sure changed the way the US views things like flying.

    • A completely failed attack on an airport can do serious damage for decades.

      Or are we allowed to bring bottles of water again?

  • If you're interested in the anti-drone products, Google "Game of Drones National Geographic." It's a pretty well made episode about a military competition to stop commercial drones. Its a cable-provider login, but worth it.
  • by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @09:38AM (#55002619)

    This topic of drones and their use for violent eds and how it's changing things just came up in a recent episode [youtube.com] of Sam Harri's waking up podcast where he interviewed Gavin De Becker [wikipedia.org] a security expert who runs a company specializing in personal protection. The main point of the interview was not drones but violence overall, however De Becker starts discussing drones towards the end of the podcast after the 2 hour 10 minute mark [youtube.com]

    His main point is this: when it comes to inflicting tissue damage, the most significant advancements in the history of weaponry have been those that have increased the distance between the attacker and the target. Such advancements reduce the risk to the assailant, thus increasing the amount of individuals willing to use these technologies to commit violence. This is why accelerated metal projectiles were such an effective discovery, and after those prior to drones the technology that's had the most impact has been remote detonated bombs, because they increase the distance between the target and the assailant even more. Drones go even further than this because they're essentially smart/guided bomb platforms or biological agent delivery systems (airborne pathogens dispersed over crowds etc)

    Becker states that in his opinion commercial drones are the most significant advancement in tissue damage technology in a thousand years (ie. since bullets) because they're very cheap, very easy to use, and very hard to defend against. And the maneuverability is extremely high: drones with collective pitch can do stuff like this [youtu.be] and it doesn't take that long for an individual to learn to pilot them.. When you add to that the fact that swarm technology already exists allowing a single operator to control up to 50 small drones that will avoid crashing into each other but can be guided to hit a single target, and that in the future the drones may well be entirely autonomous and not require even a signal to the controller, I find it hard to disagree with De Becker's estimation that this will be much, much more relevant advancement in weapon technology than people currently think.

    As he points out, 'every weapon that has ever been developed has been used", we know that commercial drones are used as improvised weapons already, but this is in the very early stages. It's only a matter of time before some prominent politician/celebrity/business leader somewhere is assassinated by a drone or some terror group successfully carries out an attack in the west, and once the meme is out there, they're going to start ramping up. Compare to the use of vehicles as tools of terror; the technology itself has existed for over a century, but now that the weaponizing of personal vehicles has become a trend it's begun to spread and has started to be used even by groups pother than islamic terrorists, but a vehicle attack is very limited in scope and accuracy and can only be used to deliver random damage.

    Drones are far more precise, and, when used correctly, far more deadly while at the same time being massively cheaper than vehicles. The fact that you can currently fly a drone in most western cities without much care of being caught even if you fly it in a no-fly area is a problem.

    • Bah, all you need is a firmware update and your swarm of buzzing insects-from-hell turn into little plastic bricks.

      Yeah, DJI, I'm looking at you....

    • by larkost ( 79011 )

      Just commenting on the 'every weapon that has ever been developed has been used' part: that is not true. Fleets of ICBMs have been primed and ready to go my entire life, yet not a single one of them has ever been used as a weapon (thankfully). So unless you consider the threat of using them a use, those have never been used.

      So, we as a species at least have some small amount of self control when it comes to armageddon.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @09:40AM (#55002621)

    They probably ignored it and assumed it was a bird. A larger drone would get detected more easily. Ships already have systems which can easily knock down a drone: Phalanx CIWS [wikipedia.org], Goalkeeper CIWS [wikipedia.org], 30mm DS30M Mark 2 Automated Small Calibre Gun [wikipedia.org].

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The ammuniition for those guns probably weighs about as much, per round, as the drone does. They might be reluctant to fire it in port: even if a few rounds hit the drone, a few stray vehicles might be destroyed by the other few hundred. (These things have a ridiculous rate of fire.)

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      which can easily knock down a drone

      Not easily if the ship is docked and you need to avoid collateral damage.

    • The vessel in this instance was not armed, equipped or even military. I suspect one would have a harder time attacking an active vessel.
  • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @10:04AM (#55002671)

    A 10 billion dollar ship can be sunk with a missile or a torpedo that costs 1000 times less. What else is new?

    • by bankman ( 136859 )

      A 10 billion dollar ship can be sunk with a missile or a torpedo that costs 1000 times less.

      Yes, absolutely. But why? This ship is in all likelihood only going to be a threat for other ships at ramming speed in the near future. Problems range from staff shortages to planes not being available/operational. The UK carrier program is a fantastic exercise in public planning and spending. :-)

    • Or a certain sort of Captain. Even cheaper than torpedoes!
  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @10:50AM (#55002779)

    Every concept conceived by humans can be used for both good and evil. Banning, regulating, or otherwise trying to control technology is a pointless exercise because ultimately, some human gets to decide what is good and what is evil.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      "every concept"??? Or just "every technology"? I would agree with the latter, but something like "hope" for example, is certainly a concept, but you'd be hard pressed to come up with a way that it can actually ever be utilized for evil
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Sunday August 13, 2017 @01:58PM (#55003431)
    2 lbs of explosive would do nothing to a flight deck. A drone dropping a grenade onto a playground while kids are playing is a far more likely outcome. ISS is already doing that in Iraq and Syria. As they were being defeated in Mosul they sent drones into cleared areas and dropped grenades or mortar bombs onto the civilians. It seems someone always finds a way to use every technological advance to harm someone else.
    • They could probably do more harm to the battle readiness of the ship by delivering 2 kilos of cocaine to the crew.
  • An RPG would do more damage than a drone with a little bomb.
    Even better, sink it with a bunch of torpedos. The ship is docked and pretty much empty. No one is going to be there looking at the sonar while it's docked in a shipyard.

    • Except RPGs and torpedoes are:
      1. very expensive and
      2. very hard to come by.

      Neither it true for a drone.
      • .... what about the 2kg of Semtex to attach to said cheap drone? You know, enough to scuff the paint on the flight deck he landed on - just enough to piss off the maintenance crew

        • A little googling reveals an RPG grenade is cheaper than the drone this guy used.
          Last year black market prices were $100 per grenade 5 years ago ($500 now since demand in Syria)
          A launcher will set you back a couple of grand now though, but they're reusable.

          You'd probably do more damage with an RPG than you would with semtex placed on a flat surface out in the open. Despite having less explosive in it, the grenade is designed to direct the energy forward, while also being propelled forward.

          While 2kg of semte

  • I'm mostly surprised that the owner of the drone is free and able to speak to the press, instead of being shuffled off to a blacksite somewhere, held in locked windowless room, and subjected to 'enhanced interrogation' to get him to confess his ties to some extremist group or other, while they trash his home sift through his life, and destroy his reputation with everyone he knows by pulling them all in for questioning.
  • This is a bit of a non-story

    1). The carrier has not been officially commissioned yet - it's still in the hands of the builders. It has RN Ratings and Officers onboard but no munitions, counter-measures, aircraft etc. - It's as about as warlike as a cross-channel ferry.

    2). The deck is armoured - something the Royal Navy did before the US Navy : In the Pacific Royal Navy Carriers [and there were some there towards the end] survived direct bomb hits that caused major damage and fires on US Carriers with un-armoured decks. Additionally. it has various coverings on it.

    3). The original quote from the muppet that did this never mentioned anything about security or explosives. I suspect he is trying to divert attention from the fact that he has broken a number of CAA regulations and is likely to find himself getting fined, not to mention interviews with various agencies who will be more than capable of putting the absolute fear of death into him.

    All in all - he is a bit of a twat. Apparently he was trying to get to the gangway to speak to the "Captain" to get his drone back. Again - twat.
    • Actually, the main RN carrier advantage was against kamikazes, which are about the optimum case for an armored deck. The armored flight decks didn't usually stop bombs. The USN concentrated on aircraft capacity and operations, and went to armored flight decks in the first carrier class after WWII.

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