Highlands & Islands

Tiny drone lands on Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier

Image from deck of carrier Image copyright Black Isle Images
Image caption The drone took this photograph from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth

The Ministry of Defence is reviewing security after a tiny drone landed on the deck of Britain's biggest warship.

The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier was docked at Invergordon in the Highlands when an amateur photographer flew the drone close to the giant ship.

When the aircraft sensed a high wind risk, it landed itself on the £3bn warship.

The pilot told BBC Scotland: "I could have carried two kilos of Semtex and left it on the deck."

The man, who asked not to be named, said he was surprised to have been unchallenged, even when he reported himself to armed guards at the dock.

Image copyright Black Isle Images
Image caption The drone was capturing video and still shots of the ship in Invergordon

The 70,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth is the biggest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, and is due to be commissioned by the Queen later this year.

When it docked at Invergordon last month the drone pilot, who is a member of the Black Isle Images amateur photography group, saw it as an ideal opportunity to gather some footage.

He took off from the other side of the Cromarty Firth using a DJI Phantom drone with a range of four miles.

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Media captionFootage taken by the drone shortly before it landed on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth

He said: "I was getting a high wind signal telling me to land.

"I didn't really want to land it but the wind was so strong, I didn't feel it would make it back so I ignored the warning. I never expected it to land on the deck."

The pilot said his drone is equipped with anti-crash sensors and will automatically land itself if it is in danger.

He said it normally avoids steel structures but the non-slip coating on the carrier flight deck allowed it to touch down.

Image copyright Black Isle Images
Image copyright Black Isle Images

He took a photograph, then took off again and managed to fly the drone back safely.

"I could have been anybody. It was like a ghost ship," he said.

"I would say my mistake should open their eyes to a glaring gap in security. This was a bit of tomfoolery but it could have been something terrible, not just for the ship and its crew but for the people of Invergordon."

The pilot was aware he had broken rules on flying too close to the ship and reported himself to armed police guards at the entrance to the shipyard.

"I gave them my name and telephone number and expected someone to get back to me," he said.

"I thought I would be hauled in and have my footage confiscated. I could have been anybody. I guess they weren't really bothered because the ship isn't active yet."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The photographer used a DJI drone similar to this one

He said he returned to the dock last week and took more aerial footage of the ship, again unchallenged.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: 'We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously.

"This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is under way and we stepped up our security measures in light of it."

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