German authorities lead international working group on defence against small drones

Three years ago, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior was already arming itself against attacks by small drones. These could endanger critical infrastructures or industrial facilities equipped with firearms or explosives. With the USA, Germany is now leading a working group of a worldwide alliance of states. It is also about defending against „violent extremism“.

Together with the US government, Germany has launched an „initiative to defend against unmanned aerial vehicles“. This was reported by the US State Department in a press release. The founding meeting of an appropriate working group was held within the framework of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in Berlin on 13 December. The group operates under the abbreviation „GCTF C-UAS“.

Which German authority is in charge of the management remains open. Presumably it concerns here the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which led two international working groups in the past to the defense of lightweight drones. At that time it was about quadrocopters in the weight class under five kilograms. Among the dangers that can emanate from small drones, the Federal Ministry of the Interior had cited attacks against persons, critical infrastructures, rail, ship and air traffic and industrial facilities. Quadrocopters could therefore be equipped with firearms or transport „payloads with damaging effects“.

UAVs to „spread propaganda

The GCTF was founded in 2011 by 29 governments on the initiative of the USA. In addition to Australia, Canada, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and Germany, the European Union is also involved. The aim of the association is to defend against „terrorism“ and „violent extremism“. Since 2013, the Anti-Terrorism Forum has been operating a „Competence Centre“ in Dubai.

The meeting in Berlin took place on the occasion of the GCTF Regional Group for Europe. The next day, the group held a first workshop on the „terrorist use of drones“. New technologies and their easier availability made such attacks more likely; they were already accumulating „in complexity and frequency“. It is called the dropping of explosives on civilian targets. „ISIS and other terrorist groups“ would also use drones for the reconnaissance and to „spread propaganda“. Multilateral cooperation is needed to combat this.

The press release does not provide any information on the participating governments. International organizations were also present. On the agenda were also legislative procedures. The group plans to hold three more regional workshops in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in 2019. The findings are then to result in a report for the tenth GCTF ministerial meeting in autumn 2019.

Cooperation with Israeli domestic intelligence service

In 2015, the BKA led a working group „European Network for the Protection of Public Figures“ (ENPPF) on the detection and defence of drones. The network belongs to the European Union, other members are France, Croatia, Luxembourg, Hungary and the EU police agency Europol.

The dangers of small drones are also investigated within the framework of an international network of state personal security services. Within these „Association of Personal Protection Services“ there was a corresponding sub-working group in 2015, which was also headed by Germany. Further participants were police authorities from Poland, the Netherlands and South Korea as well as the Israeli domestic intelligence service. The group was founded in Berlin and the Croatian and Hungarian authorities were also invited to participate in further meetings.

Report remains classified

Several federal states have also started corresponding investigations into the threat posed by quadrocopters. At the level of the nationwide Conference of Interior Ministers (IMK), a federal-state project group was set up in which eleven federal states were involved in addition to the BKA and the Federal Police. A final report was announced for the March meeting of the IMK in 2015, but remains classified.

The BKA had drone defence systems from Rheinmetall, Airbus and ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik demonstrated to it. The missile manufacturer MBDA presented its high-energy lasers to the BKA. Before any of the systems are activated, the BKA’s Police State Security Department assesses the probability of drones being used as „a weapon for terrorist purposes“. The BKA then installed ESG technology at the G7 summit in Elmau and the G20 summit in Hamburg as well as at the German Unification Day to detect and defend against drones.

Image: ESG’s drone defense system on German Unification Day (all rights reserved ESG).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.