Virtual drone defense? NRW appeals to EU commissioners

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In view of the increasing problems with drones, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia has made a foray in Brussels to the EU Commission. Manufacturers will in future program drones so that they cannot fly into restricted air spaces. This is already possible with the help of the GPS coordinates of the no-fly zones.

In a letter from North Rhine-Westphalia’s Justice Minister Peter Biesenbach (CDU) to the responsible EU Commissioners Didier Reynders and Adina Valean, the current legal situation had proven to be insufficient. The letter has been received by the German Press Agency (DPA).

The number of drone sightings over prisons in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia had quadrupled compared to the previous year to twelve incidents last year. This is a development that is observed with concern, according to the Ministry of Justice. Commercial drones can now be used to transport objects with considerable weight: cameras to spy on, explosives, weapons or drugs.

Geofencing instead of geo-awareness system

The EU did stipulate that drones must be equipped with a “geo-awareness system”, the letter said. But that is a rather counterproductive warning function: Criminals are still made aware that they have achieved their goal.

It would be better to make the so-called geofencing (from English “fence” for “fence”) binding in EU law. This creates virtual fences around blocked air spaces that prevent the drone from flying into these areas. This is technically feasible and is already being offered by some manufacturers. The current voluntary barriers could, however, be easily switched off.

Inexpensive solution

The push from NRW aims to prevent security incidents as inexpensively as possible. “In view of the constantly increasing danger, I ask the European Commission to take up my suggestion,” writes Biesenbach.

Technical systems used to crash drones are not a serious alternative. Costs and benefits would be out of proportion. The cost of stationary drone defense per airport would currently be estimated at 30 million euros.

Defense against drones through geofencing will also be discussed at the next Justice Ministers’ conference in June 2020. Hundreds of thousands of drones have already been registered in Germany. The German Air Traffic Control (DFS) had estimated that around 1.2 million drones will be in private and commercial use by 2020.

pd / mt / dpa /

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