Small drones could launch 'chemical and biological attacks' during football games and rallies, warns former head of GCHQ

The devices would also be the "weapon of choice" for paparazzi and “ideal lookouts for burglars, train robbers and poachers"

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The Independent Tech

The increasing use of hobby drones in the UK will pose a “serious security risk” over the next 20 years, a new report has warned, with public events such as sporting fixtures and rallies at risk from airborne chemical and biological attacks.

Research into Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) by the University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report has called for “urgent” new measures to protect the safety and privacy of British citizens, adding that the technology could bring “significant benefits” to the UK’s economy and security.

The report was led by Sir David Omand, a former director of the UK’s digital intelligence agency GCHQ, who also warned that the UK’s use of military drones could be breaking international law.

Government use of surveillance drones is 'probably illegal'

The report suggested that lightweight drones (only those under 20kg are allowed to be used in British airspace by the Civil Aviation Authority) could become the “weapon of choice” for paparazzi hunting celebrities and would be “ideal lookouts for burglars, train robbers and poachers.”

The report said: "Vulnerable targets might be hardened to withstand attack from outside, but it is entirely possible that in a public space like a shopping centre or sporting stadium, an attack could be launched from within.

"Crowds at sporting events or rallies could be vulnerable in a similar way if a future terrorist group were to look for means of dispersing chemical or biological agents.

"While such a scenario has so far not posed a real danger to UK citizens [...] it is a threat that the UK authorities took seriously during the 2012 Olympics."

The report comes after a 41-year-old man was arrested near Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on suspicion of flying a drone over the pitch during a match against Tottenham Hotspur. A similar stunt during a match between Serbia and Albania last week ended in a mass brawl between players and fans.  

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