Module 3: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Threat Landscape

Aims & Objectives


The aim of Module 3: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle threat landscape is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the drone threat landscape. 

The primary objectives of Module 3:

  • Examine the terrorist use of drones in theatres of conflict.​
  • Explore the organised criminal use of drones.
  • Examine the threat from drones by political and environmental activists.
  • Examine the threat of the use if drones for smuggling drugs and weapons into prisons.​
  • Explore the threat of rogue drone incursions at airports and other restricted aviation sites.
  • Examine the hostile reconnaissance threat of rogue drone activity at critical infrastructure sites and sectors.
  • Explain the threat of rogue drone activity for purposes of industrial espionage and sabotage.
  • Explore the threat of rogue drone incursions and the impact and intrusion on the right to privacy of citizens from the media, paparazzi, private investigators or state actors. ​

Drone as a threat

  • Easily accessible for everyone (commercial or custom ones)​
  • Minor visual, thermal, acoustic and radar signature/emission​
  • Able to carry significant payload comparing to its size​
  • Hard to detect and neutralize ​
  • Able to slide over 2D protection measures​
  • Technological benefits  – automated flights, silent drones ​
  • Able to travel (pre-programmed) long distances​
  • Easy pilotage for everyone​
  • Capability of piloting a swarm of UAVs by one person​

We should also consider that…​

  • Custom-made drones are often difficult to be detected even by the state-of-the-art CUAS.​
  • Patterns that one can use to avoid security measures (e.g. flying between buildings/ hovering hidden) increase the risk level.​
  • The response time, right after a drone sighting is limited – a decision usually should be made within the first 2 minutes after the drone sighting​
  • Drones can carry as a payload IED, CBRN weapons, etc.​
  • A flying object, such as drone (mainly copters) could also cause casualties if its motors intentionally or accidentally stop.​
  • In case of intentional use/terrorist attack, the level of threat that a drone might cause depends not only to its type, size and payload but also to the target (public space, critical infrastructure, VIP, police/military facilities, etc.)​

Categorisation of Offenders

The threat that a UAV can cause is divided based on the operators’ intention:

  • Accidental intrusions by negligent/careless operators​
  • Intrusions by unsophisticated operators/ Reckless individuals
  • Intentional intrusions by sophisticated operators/ Criminal or Terrorist motivation