Thursday, December 20, 2018

So who needs an explosive cargo?


Not a week after I'd written about collisions between drones and commercial aircraft, and the threat this might pose to air travel (particularly in the hands of terrorists), what happens?

Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain’s Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield.

The airport south of London — Britain’s second-busiest by passenger numbers — closed its runway Wednesday evening after two drones were spotted.

It reopened briefly at about 3 a.m. Thursday, but shut 45 minutes later after further sighting and remained closed at midday — 15 hours after the first sighting.

Police said the “devices used are of an industrial specification,” an indication that the drones weren’t small, inexpensive machines. A police helicopter was hovering near the airfield as officers from two nearby forces hunted the drone operators.

“The police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets,” said Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer.

. . .

All incoming and outgoing flights were suspended, and the airport’s two terminals were jammed with thousands of weary travelers, many of whom had spent the night on benches and floors.

Police said the drone flights were a “deliberate act to disrupt the airport,” but that there were “absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related.”

There were 20 police units from two forces searching for the elusive drone operator.

Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, of Sussex Police, said the search was daunting.

“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,” he said.

. . .

Any problem at Gatwick causes a ripple effect throughout Britain and continental Europe, particularly during a holiday period when air traffic control systems are under strain.

Passengers complained on Twitter that their Gatwick-bound flights had landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities.

Luke McComiskie, who landed in Manchester — more than 160 miles (260 kilometers) from London — said the situation “was just chaos, and they had only two coaches (buses) and taxis charging people 600 pounds ($760) to get to Gatwick.”

There's more at the link.

How the police can assert there are "absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related", I can't understand.  If I were a terrorist, I'd be laughing my ass off right now.  At negligible risk of detection, I'd have shut down the second most important airport in London, and one of the most important in Britain.  I'd have caused delays (and related expense) to tens of thousands of travelers;  cost airlines and airports literally millions of dollars in related costs such as repositioning aircraft from where they've had to land, to collect passengers waiting for them at Gatwick;  cost business and commerce tens of millions in delayed air freight deliveries (particularly perishable items), insurance claims, disrupted meetings and travel arrangements, and so on.  There's also the cost of "20 police units from two forces searching for the elusive drone operator" - not a small expense in itself, plus the fact that those cops can't be chasing other criminals or investigating other crimes while they're distracted by the search.

I daresay the cost of the Gatwick disruptions will run well into the tens of millions of dollars by the time everything's added up.  That's terror-level economic disruption, right there - yet not a single grain of explosives was required, and no-one had to be killed or injured.  Even if the drone operators are caught, they can only be charged with disrupting airport traffic and disobeying air traffic control regulations.  They'll get a smack on the wrist, a few years in prison at most - but their example will inspire countless others to do the same thing.

If this is a portent, we can expect to see more incidents like this at more and more British and European airports in coming months.  It's cheap, easy, and ridiculously effective at disrupting air travel over half a continent, by the time you take every disruption and "ripple effect" into account.  If I were Muslim terrorists, I'd be all over this like white on rice.  You don't have enough volunteers willing to die in a terrorist act?  Then why not persuade the weaker-willed members of your organization to do this instead, at greatly reduced risk to themselves?  The most they'll face is a few years behind bars, rather than death.

Drones as a terror weapon?  Oh, hell, yeah!

Peter

19 comments:

Jess said...

I foresee methods to stop this in the near future, and wouldn't be surprised if some company develops a small surface to air missile for handling rogue drones.

TheOtherSean said...

I wish people would be more responsible with their drone use. Instead of disrupting holiday travelers' plans, they should attach explosive to their drones and fly them into the offices and homes of globalist leaders.

Old NFO said...

Yep, reality is it becomes a 'safety' issue when drones are up around ANY airport, whether they are armed/explosive/whatever simply due to their ability to 'interact' with aircraft in a negative sense.

Y. said...

Ofc it's terror related. London has thousands of jihadi fuckwits.

There's probably something that can kill a jet engine if it gets sucked in. Doing so to a plane just after take-off could lead to a crash.

Rob said...

That was a successful economic attack.

Johno said...

" It could be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down." What is wrong with a full-choke shotgun, in the hands of any half-capable bird hunter?
Airports already employ security patrol staff that carry shotguns, firing 'cracker-shells' (aerial detonating) to deter birds, with shotshells to kill ones that won't take the hint, along with .22 rifles to quickly kill dogs and other mammals on airstrips. Why the hell not use a 3" or 3 1/2" 12 gauge, in absolute safety, to nail the drones?
Remember it doesn't need heaps of pellets to shoot it down, just one pellet clipping a rotor blade will likely drop the thing.

Technomad said...

This puts me very much in mind of Eric Frank Russell's novel Wasp, where a lone Terran agent is disguised as a member of an enemy race and dropped alone onto one of the enemy's planets, with orders to make himself a complete pain-in-the-neck. He carries out his orders, and more, often by means just about this simple.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

London is ate up with jihadi, of course they ain't gonna say that it is "terror related", they can't say that, will piss off their muslim overlords...because such words are stereotypical and hateful. The police can handle the drone problem like your other commenters have suggested, but the Police have demonstrated a lack of intestinal fortitude.

Beans said...

What Johno said. This is what shotguns were made for. Lead-free pellets would even be 'environmentally friendly.'

And punt guns, to use against the Jihad Johnnies that are doing this. Use lead full shot just to rub it in.

Why do I say Jihad Johnnies? Well, as Mr. Garabaldi so succinctly put it, in England there is no Islamic terrorism. The wonderful words of "Allahu Ackbar," "Aloha Snackbar," "Admiral Ackbar" or some variation thereof have never been officially connected to any random explosion, car thumping, stabbing, shooting, acid attack, poisoning... Much like during the previous 8 year administration, there were no terrorist attacks by peaceful religionists... Darned those Roman Orthodox Southern Penta-Baptistic Amish!


Will said...

They should be hunting drones with other drones or R/C model aircraft. Ramming would be simpler, but I suspect that trailing a releasable cord would be a viable option. Yeah, it's going to hit the ground or something else. So?

I'd imagine the .gov would have modelers lining up to take a crack at this sort of target. Well, here in the US for sure.

Will said...

Johno:

a single blade hit will not drop a commercial type drone. Might not even do it for a hobby type. They run a minimum of 4 rotors, and may have 8. Loosing one of six or eight may slow it down, but won't bring it down.

You would need a good pattern hit to do the job. Only a "golden BB" in the electronics would suffice for a single hit.

WL Emery said...

The drones are likely out of shotgun range, even if you're using a 10 gauge with an extra full choke and red hot loads. Even if the drones are inside shotgun range, the only people that the government would allow to shoot at the drones (under correct supervision, of course) would be the local police. Anyone for a round of sporting clays? What, no sporting clays in Jolly Old? Balderdash, man!

Can you imagine something like this in, say, Pierre, South Dakota? A general announcement on the order of, "Hey, anyone with a shotgun and some high brass, will you please come out to the airport? We got these drones in the air, and we need a few guys to clean 'em out."

Wait long enough and you'd have the entire town out there, shooting in shifts - and that includes the youth group borrowing Grandad's 12 gauge pump.

selsey.steve said...

I live in England. Just been down the pub and had a chat or two. Everyone knew about the Gatwick incidents and the general consensus was that these incidents over Gatwick are just a rehearsal for the real thing. A simultaneous series of drone attacks over each and every international airport in the UK. It would be enonomic murder!

TwoDogs said...

Shotgunner in a helicopter. That'd solve the range problem.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

+1

Vakkotaur said...

Gee, I wonder what effect a well-directed high-power narrow-beam radar would have on those 'unshootable' devices.

Larry said...

That's the ticket.

Will said...

The problem with using a shotgun from a chopper is that it puts you within striking distance of the drone. The only chopper I might be willing to do that from would be a Huey, since those blades can handle cutting small trees up, or at least the ones used in Vietnam could. What are the odds that it is carrying an explosive?
Best thing would be to launch an R/C model from the chopper after getting close enough to see it.

Larry said...

@Will, If the drones have such omniscient vision, being able to look not only down and around in all angles, but also up, then I'd expect they'd have already downed an airliners on takeoff rather than buzzing around making nuisances of themselves. For such coverage, I'd expect you'd need at least 3 observers plus pilot.

Now this is exactly what I thought a drone of current vintage would be capable of, barring bad luck. This is an industrial drone, not some cheap thing anyone can buy with next month's rent money. Economic warfare is where the game is at today's price/performance levels. This is the kin of disruption one can expect during full-on peacetime.

We're not yet to the point of the drone being more than a nuisance weapon. It's only a few years before that point's passed, though. From what I've seen in substantiated reports, the most effective use of drones in the Ukraine conflict haven't been as direct weapons, but as (disposable) observation platforms that have been used to call in artillery strikes on positions and dumps (not carrying out effective attacks by themselves except as reported by propaganda outlets).

Countermeasures: 40 mm Bofors-type guns around the periphery, armed helicopters, drone-hunting drones, etc. All of which require forethought, such as compensating those living close to an airfield damaged by defenses (or just preemptively buying them out). Which in many cases means buying out those that never should have been allowed to buy in the first place -- I'm looking at you NAS Oceana and NAS North Island, and others).