DJI Spy Drones and HMS Queen Elizabeth

Two significant drones stories emerge this week

It has been reported that a hobby drone was used to take many minutes of drone footage of the UK’s £3bn Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, before landing on the deck of the ship. I am as amazed as the ‘drone enthusiast’ was of the total lack of security which allowed this to happen unchallenged.

Although the ship is conducting its sea trials and has not been formally handed over to the Royal Navy the ships builders, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, should be considering how they can prevent future drone flights around this highly sensitive ship. There are no aircraft currently on-board but the ship has some of the most advanced electronic systems available which, I would imagine, the Royal Navy would want to keep under-wraps. With most hobby drones being able to capture high resolution 4k video there is potential for secret radar and electronic systems to be exposed to external interested parties.

I am certain there is a significant security detail protecting HMS Queen Elizabeth but they seem to have been caught off guard by a simple £300 toy drone which is available from any high street across the nation. Thankfully, this time, drone’s operator was only trying to get some footage of the vessel but in the future the apparent vulnerability could be exploited by someone with more sinister intentions.

The second significant story came from the USA where the US Department of the Army banned the use of drones made by the world’s most popular manufacturer over data security fears.   The Department names Chinese drone manufacturer, DJI, over security fears in the memo issued at the beginning of August. It has been well known in the commercial drone community that DJI drones take images and transmit them back to DJI servers, now this has been highlighted as an unacceptable security breach for the US Army.

The US, like many other nations, have been experimenting with low cost ‘commercial off the shelf’ drones like the ones made by DJI. With the revelation that the drones themselves are taking unauthorised pictures and sending them back to DJI there are some significant concerns about data security especially when the drones are being used on sensitive or secure sites.

Both these stories highlight the need of economical and effective Drone Defence . Low cost, commercial drones are being used by individuals for fun and those drones now, it has emerged, are sending images to back to unknown servers overseas. The total lack of drone countermeasures on HMS Queen Elizabeth will have been noted by our nation’s adversaries. We now have a situation where a drone could be used innocently to capture some video of a sensitive site and those images are being sent overseas for anyone to examine at their leisure, potentially exposing secrets and technology we would wish to remain our own.

Drone Defence can help organisations of all sizes understand and mitigate the risks posed by the nefarious use of commercial drones. We have the skills to deploy and manage effective detection and countermeasures systems to ensure sites stay secure.


Thank you to Gary Mortimer and the SUAS News team for the memo from the US Department of the Army.  Their hard work in finding the latest news on the drone industry is invaluable.  To find out more about SUAS News visit  www.suasnews.com

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