How cities can prepare against non-cooperative drones: a joint Efus-DG Home workshop

May 2021 – Efus co-organised an online workshop with the European Commission’s Directorate General Home Affairs on the use of drones for urban security and how to prepare for and mitigate potential threats from hostile or non-cooperative drones, on 12 May. The event gathered representatives from local and regional authorities and from the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Initiative Cities Community (UIC2) of the EU’s Smart Cities Marketplace*. 

An EU handbook for cities

Efus co-organised this workshop with the aim of encouraging a discussion that started with our web conference on the use of drones in cities, in February. Through our working group on Security & Innovation we noticed that many of our member cities are starting to explore how they can use drones in the domain of urban security and beyond. The question of how to prepare for and mitigate the threat of hostile or non-cooperative drones is however rarely discussed at the local level. 

The European Commission is currently finalising a handbook for securing cities from non-cooperative Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which is the technical name of drones and the groundlevel technology needed to control them. The workshop was meant to present a first draft to representatives of local authorities and get their feedback. The handbook is intended to be an easily accessible, non-technical document for use by many different stakeholders in an urban context, including competent national authorities, drone operators, private/industry interests, regional/local government authorities, security providers, and  civil society, including individual members of the public.

It was the second workshop of the DG Home on this topic, following one in March where it presented ongoing EU activities in the domain of counter drone work and the kind of EU support Member States could benefit from. Efus had been invited to represent local and regional authorities, as the DG Home is keen to involve the local level in its work on that topic. It thus reached out to Efus in order to explore how to get local and regional authorities more actively involved.

The need for more awareness 

An increasing number of European cities are experimenting with the use of drones for urban security and prevention and beyond. For example, the city of Turin (Italy) is exploring their use to monitor illegal waste disposal, but also to support the mapping of cultural sites throughout the city. The Brussels’ police have been using drones since 2017 and have increased their deployment during the first lockdown in 2020 to monitor people’s adherence to physical distancing rules in the streets.

A number of participants in the workshop explained that while cities are using drones in various types of cases, counter-drone considerations are not discussed as actively. They called for more awareness-raising and education on drones and on their impact on urban security. This can happen on different levels and target different audiences: local authorities should be kept in the loop about potential threats and dangers, and drone hobbyists should be made aware of existing regulations, including in countries they visit as tourists. One participant pointed out that it could be interesting to create educational modules for students in order to raise awareness from a young age.

Check out our Innovation & Security space on Efus Network

Efus is committed to continue supporting local and regional authorities in this domain  whether through peer to peer exchange or through facilitating the conversation with European level stakeholders and policymakers. We encourage you to join our working group on Innovation & Security on Efus Network to discuss this and other topics related to technological and social innovation. 

* About the UAM Initiative Cities Community (UIC2)
The UAM Initiative Cities Community (UIC2) of the EU’s Smart Cities Marketplace is the voice of EU’s Smart Cities working on a diverse set of topics related to the emergence of the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) ecosystem. When it comes to the governance of the urban sky, the members of the UIC2 recognise the importance of multilevel governance for harmonised and universal U-Space regulation at EU level.

> Read our factsheet on the opportunities and risks of the use of drones in urban areas