General problem - Group 4 - 2018/2019, Semester B, Quartile 3

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General problem

General problem description

Between 19 and 21 December 2018, hundreds of flights were cancelled at Gatwick Airport, following reports of drone sightings close to the runway[1]. A total of 760 flights were disrupted on the 20th of December due to the drone. Naturally, this angered many people whose flight was delayed. Not only does it anger people, but it is also a financial worry for the airport organisation as all of these people with delayed flights have to be compensated. The airport did not have any `good' measures to prevent this issue. Gatwick chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said: `The police are looking for the operator and that is the way to disable the drone'[1]. Woodroofe further elaborates that the police had not wanted to shoot the devices down because of the risk from stray bullets. This is, of course, not something that is to be repeated as this caused much inconvenience for many travellers. The airport itself only had detection and tracking devices, but no real effective counter mechanisms available. This issue is not limited to the setting of airports, but it can be further extended to any hot spot, such as the centre of cities, special events that involve essential figures, and more. With the ever-increasing possibilities of technology, it should in the future not be unexpected for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to suddenly show up and wreak havoc. This havoc can range from taking pictures of people in public places to spy or stalk them to terrorists that use UAVs to drop bombs in highly populated areas. These occurrences are more likely to appear as the technology we possess increases.

We think that we should not sit idle and passively wait for the worst-case scenarios to occur before starting to think about countermeasures. The recent incident between 19 and 21 December 2018 at Gatwick Airport should already sound an alarm that we should take an active attitude and develop mechanisms that counter UAVs in productive ways. These mechanisms should be able to deal with much more than mere birds and should consider any form of terrorism that can be caused through the airspace.

State of the Art

In order to gain more insights regarding the topic, we do extensive research. The results of this research can be found on the State of the Art page.

General USE aspects

In this section, we consider the users, society, and the enterprise based on the general problem description.


There are multiple stakeholders involved in a solution to the problem introduced in the problem description. By far the largest and most diverse category of stakeholders consists of those parties that are (majorly) disadvantaged by unauthorised or unwanted UAV operations, or malicious events that could follow. We can identify several subcategories of stakeholders whose material possessions or immaterial values are at stake.

The most important users are as follows:

  • The Government

As the governing body, a collection of many large instances with national interests, the government of a nation aims to preserve the material and immaterial assets of its citizens. This goal might be obstructed by the unwanted presence of UAVs or events caused by them.

  • Non-governmental organisations

Includes companies or other privately owned bodies that want to protect their material assets against damage from UAV incidents, or protect immaterial assets such as privacy or intellectual property that could be violated by the unwanted presence of UAVs.

  • Civilians or individuals in general

Civilians or individuals, in general, are also stakeholders in the problem space that we consider. They might have their assets violated in some way by UAVs or UAV related events, such as civilian espionage empowered by UAVs. Since drone flight is growing as a commercial pass-time, more specifically the operation of drones by civilians for fun is becoming more popular, this user group must also be considered as a stakeholder from this perspective.


Society as a whole is affected by the already existing and upcoming dangers of drones. First of all, drones can be a massive hindrance at for example airports (Gatwick airport), football stadiums or other public places. However, apart from simple hindrance, drones can also be extremely dangerous for society, as they can be weaponised and used by terrorists, the military or any other person with bad intentions. Furthermore, more and more people are using drones privately, causing privacy issues for society, as these drones are equipped with a camera most of the times and can easily reach private places. This is why drone interception is so vital to society. If there were to be a tool that could detect, identify and neutralise drones, this could help in a decrease of hostile drones and thereby also decrease the dangers above that drones bring to society.


Enterprise is greatly affected by the illegal use of drones; for example, the airlines at Gatwick lost much revenue due to delayed flights and passenger compensation. The airport itself also suffered from the forced shutdown. Drones also threaten other industries, espionage via drones can be done remotely, where attackers may steal a company secrets through aerial photography or by taking pictures through windows. Hence the development of anti-drone will be of enormous benefit to existing enterprises but also spark new business opportunities for security contractors and UAV oriented startups.

Zoom in

After a lot of internal discussions, we found out that we have to zoom in more due to otherwise undertaking too broad of a problem space. Therefore, we zoom into the problem description and define a more specific problem description on the Specific problem description page.

Back to the root page.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gatwick Airport: Drones ground flights", 20 December 2018. Retrieved on 2019-02-06.