Response to the Consultation on Drones

I intervened last night in the debate following the Secretary of State for Transport's statement on drones, asking what action his department was taking to prevent the malicious incursion of drones into operational airspace.

Bill Grant

In my 30 years in the fire service, I attended two major aircraft incidents, one of which resulted in multiple fatalities. The whole House and the nation can be grateful for the actions taken at Gatwick airport, where there was no loss of life and no loss of aircraft. Despite the chaos for the travelling public, in the circumstances it has to be ​measured as good that there was no loss of aircraft and no loss of life. In the light of the events at Gatwick, what discussions has my right hon. Friend had with airport operators throughout the United Kingdom about mitigating or preventing the malicious incursion of drones into operational airspace? We must bear in mind that those intent on bringing chaos and death to the air-travelling public will not respect exclusion zones, so on their own exclusion zones will not stop the drones.

Chris Grayling

That is the central point: we could have done everything imaginable in legal terms, but if somebody is determined to cause an attack of this kind, they will do so. It is now very much about understanding what technology can make a difference. In technological terms, this was very much a learning exercise, because there simply was not an off-the-shelf system available to deal with it. It took a lot of effort to work out what competencies were there and to assemble them in a way that could work. It was the first time that had been done anywhere in the world. We now understand more clearly how to deal with an attack such as this one, and others will have learned from it so that the kind of terrible events that my hon. Friend mentioned can never happen in such a situation.