University of Jyväskylä

Unmanned Traffic may Increase the Spread of Chemical Weapons

Unmanned devices are especially useful in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) defence, but unmanned traffic may also increase the spread of chemical weapons, says Dr Jaana Kuula, who is currently working as part of an international EU project on CBRNE response at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. According to Dr Kuula, unmanned airborne devices and unmanned air traffic in general are particularly problematic for security because they are easily susceptible for use in the preparation and execution of terrorist attacks. Preparation can include the transportation of hazardous substances and other materials that are needed for fabricating and distributing such agents.

Drones can be a security risk.
Drones can be a security risk.

Dr Kuula explains that although there are currently regulations and technological infrastructure such as U-Space being built for guiding unmanned air traffic in Europe, there are still many possibilities for illegal activity with unmanned devices. U-Space, for example, allows selected types of unmanned devices to be operated freely, meaning there is a risk of hazardous payloads. If these are not controlled, hobbyists’ airships and children’s toys may be used in the delivery of explosives or chemical weapons. Furthermore, U-Space does not control unmanned traffic on the ground or waterways. In addition, Dr Kuula states that even registered commercial UAV traffic may not always be harmless. Instead, if payloads are not checked at each end and landing along a longer route, transportation of ordinary commodities may be used for spreading lethal or other illegal material.

Dr Kuula concludes that technical hindrances to the spread of chemical weapons with unmanned or other vehicles remain a secondary method only. The first line of defence consists of international agreements and ensuring that they are being followed. This entails international tracking of suspicious delivery trails by monitoring suspected people, chemicals and other materials that are used for carrying out lethal attacks.

Dr Jaana Kuula, local manager in the international Toxi-triage project, University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Information Technology; email; tel. +358 40 8053272

All payloads in UAVs may not be harmless.
All payloads in UAVs may not be harmless.

TOXI-triage - Tools for detection, traceability, triage and individual monitoring of victims is a four-year, eight-country project funded by the European Commission for developing new innovative technologies for CBRNE response in 2015 to 2019. The project is coordinated by Loughborough University, UK and the other partner countries are Finland, Germany, Spain, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Dr Jaana Kuula leads the project in the development of unmanned hyperspectral CBRNE detection methods.

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