A civilian photographer landed his $350 drone on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the United Kingdom’s brand-new aircraft carrier, without anyone noticing. Even more alarming, when the incident was reported, the government authorities didn’t seem particularly concerned by the breach of security. The incident comes after drones have been used to monitor military bases, conduct acts of sabotage, and even kill.
The drone operator, who only goes by the working name Black Isle Images, flew the DJI Phantom drone (The Register says it was a Parrot Bebop) over Queen Elizabeth as she was docked at Invergordon, Scotland. The photographer claims had had no intention of actually landing on the carrier, but a sudden gust of wind triggered the drone’s high wind sensors, which immediately set the tiny unmanned aircraft down on the carrier’s flight deck as a precaution. The photographer snapped a picture from the flight deck and flew the drone away. Here’s video the drone shot before it was forced to land:
After picking up the drone, the photographer decided to confess and went to speak with police guarding the ship. “I was only able to speak to some armed police, I think from the MoD,” Maritime Executive quoted him as saying. “They said there was no one available on the carrier, as they were at dinner on shore. No one seemed too concerned. The officer I spoke to said he’d pass it up the chain of command.”
The drone operator left his contact information for the authorities, but says that nobody ever got back to him. According to the BBC, a UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson said, “‘We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously. This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is under way and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier, and the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. The 70,000-ton, $3.9 billion dollar vessel will embark F-35B Joint Strike Fighters and serve as the Royal Navy’s flagship. A second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, is currently under construction.
The incident comes as armed forces around the world are gradually responding to the drone threat. Islamic State forces were among the first to weaponize civilian drones, converting them to drop mortar bombs and hand grenades. In March, a drone armed with a Russian hand grenade blew up a Ukranian ammo dump, destroying a billion dollars’ worth of ammunition, killing one person and injuring five. U.S. forces have secured permission to shoot down or take control of drones flying close to U.S. military bases, after a F-22A Raptor had a near miss with a drone.