An amateur photographer has reportedly landed his £475 drone aboard the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy – without permission and completely unchallenged.
The unnamed photographer gave an interview to local paper the Inverness Courier, detailing how he landed his drone aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in spite of “police in small boats who were waving at the drone.”
Neither the photographer nor the newspaper had responded to us by the time of publication but we’ll update this article if we hear back from them.
Operating under the Facebook nom de guerre Black Isle Images, the photographer reportedly used a Parrot Bebop drone to land on the flight deck, where he took some photos before taking off again.
Although he was mainly motivated to land by the absence of personnel on the carrier's flight deck, the photographer said he landed because his drone's software gave him a "high wind warning", advising him to land.
Identical drones, equipped with first-person view live streaming cameras, can be bought from your internet souk of choice for around £475. The manufacturer claims they have a range of 1.24 miles (2km).
“There was absolutely no one around when I landed, it was a ghost ship,” the photographer told the paper. After flying away from the warship and recovering his drone on Newhall Point, on the Highlands’ Black Isle peninsula, he was seized by a fit of conscience and drove round to the carrier’s Invergordon moorings to ‘fess up. There a group of “heavily armed” police met him: “No one seemed too concerned, but the officer I spoke to said he would pass it up the chain of command."
"In the last week commercial drone operators have discussed if they'd be able to find a location where they could capture some video of the aircraft carrier, with most feeling it would be impossible as the military would likely misinterpret any video drones flying as potentially being a threat," Ian Hudson, a licensed British drone operator, told The Register.
"ISIS have a proven track record in Syria of weaponizing DJI's Phantom [drone] and its professional platform the Matrice 100 to drop grenades on troops, so a drone flying over the aircraft carrier without permission, as opposed to alongside, should be considered a potential threat," he added.
Although at first glance it seems entirely likely that the drone should have been shot down, HMS Queen Elizabeth is not actually armed at the moment. Strictly speaking, she is a civilian ship at the moment and is still the property of her builders, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance. The armament, such as it will be, will be fitted once she is accepted by the Ministry of Defence and fully commissioned into the Royal Navy. Sharp eyes will have noticed the aircraft carrier currently flies the Blue Ensign, as worn by non-commissioned ships on government business.
We have asked the MoD for comment on the mildly embarrassing stunt.
The carrier is due to arrive at Portsmouth, her home port, late next week. El Reg will be attending her grand entry to the south coast city at the invitation of the MoD. Curiously, we were specifically warned not to bring along any drones or fly them around the ship as she enters port. Perhaps the Navy is more prepared for trouble down south than it is in the sleepy waters of Scotland? ®