Largest UK Navy carrier security under review after amateur lands drone on deck undetected
The incident happened when the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, which is to be commissioned by the Royal Navy later this year, was docked in the Scottish port of Invergordon in July.
A local amateur photographer saw the arrival of the warship, which cost the £3 billion (US$3.9 billion), as a great opportunity to obtain some footage.
The man, who opted to remain anonymous, told the Daily Mail he was “amazed” that he managed to land his DJI Phantom quadcopter drone aboard the 70,000-tonne vessel and then take off again without being detected.
“There was no-one about to prevent it from landing although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone… There was absolutely no one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship,” the photographer told the Daily Mail.
In a separate interview with the BBC, he said: “I could have been anybody… I could have carried 2 kilos of Semtex [plastic explosive] and left it on the deck.”
According to the drone pilot, he never planned to land his quadcopter on the aircraft carrier’s deck, but was forced to do so due to difficult weather conditions.
“I received a high wind warning as I was videoing up and down the flight deck and my control system advised me to land,” he explained to the Daily Mail.
The man said he understood what he did was wrong and “drove round to Invergordon and spoke to the port security and explained that I wanted to speak to someone from the ship such as the duty watch or the captain” about the incident.
“I was only able to speak to some heavily armed police, I think from the MoD, and they said there was no one available on the carrier as they were at dinner ashore,” he said.
The British Ministry of Defense, apparently, doesn’t treat the drone landing as seriously as him, the pilot said, otherwise, the shots of Queen Elizabeth he made “would not have been allowed to see the light of day.”
The military negligence may be explained by the fact that “the ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet,” the photographer suggested.
“We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously,” an MoD spokesman told the Daily Mail, adding that “an investigation is under way [into the drone landing] and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”
The social media group, Black Isle Images, which published the footage of the aircraft carrier, said that it “did not post anything to embarrass anyone, but in doing so hopefully security will be tightened.”
The group turned down “some drone pilots, who are angry because they believe it [drone landing] will make drone regulations tighter.”
“Well we believe that those regulations should be tighter, there is no way we should have been able to do what we did,” Black Isle Images said in a statement on Facebook.
The 280-meter-long ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’ is the largest ship even built by the Royal Navy, capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft.
The construction of ‘Queen Elizabeth's’ sister ship, the ‘Prince of Wales’, is close to conclusion at the Rosyth shipyard.