Danger in the air


Philip Mason talks to Bristol Airport’s security operations manager Javid Haq about its recent roll-out of a Telent/Digital Global Systems-developed drone management product

According to a press release issued earlier this year, the product - known as CLEARSKY - was fully deployed by Bristol Airport in May, following an initial three-month trial period. The purpose of the roll-out was simply to enable security forces at the airport to “accurately detect, identify, and monitor” drone activity taking place around the site.

The passive wideband spectrum monitoring/geolocation solution in question is able to both identify the drone signal, and the location of its operator. Using machine learning, it can also identify UAVs at distances – according to Telent – far greater than other systems.

Unsurprisingly, the origin of Bristol’s interest in the solution dates back to the now infamous December 2018 Gatwick Airport incident, which saw 140,000 passengers’ travel plans being disrupted following drone sightings close to the runway.

Starting the story from the beginning, Bristol Airport’s security operations manager Javid Haq says: “I sit on the Department for Transport’s counter-drones action group, and following the incident at Gatwick it was obvious that the threat was out there. The only thing that we didn’t know for sure was just how bad it could potentially be.

“Following what happened at the end of 2018, airports were suddenly inundated with people who said that they had the technology to solve all our problems. In Bristol, we had something like 40 companies apply to demonstrate their solutions to us, some of which, honestly, were really wild and wonderful. Out of that, we probably interviewed eight, finally running trials with three.”

He continues: “The reason we went with Telent and DGS was simply that they had the technology we wanted, and that we felt we could use. [CLEARSKY] provides the widest possible scanning area, plus it has an associated app – something which I think is still quite unusual in this field – as well as an evidence management system. These were the three things that ultimately made the decision for us.”

Following Bristol Airport’s first meeting with Telent and DGS the three partners began setting up the aforementioned trial, as conducted during the early part of this year. This involved situating a series of nodes/antennas across the airport’s flight restriction zone, thereby enabling the system to identify a ‘position line’ in relation to any potential drone use.

The information derived from this is then relayed via the app to security staff on the ground, who will have it presented to them in the form of an electronic map interface. As might be expected, the more nodes deployed, the more accurate the positioning.

According to Haq, the positioning of the nodes is informed by an assessment carried out by the local police, in the first instance identifying the most likely launch areas from which to carry out rogue UAV activity. This is followed by an RF survey of the locations in question, and finally the provision of power and IT.

The complete version of this article will appear in the October edition of the BAPCO Journal.

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Media contact

Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216