Bristol drone sensor install - 2 months on

Drone installation

On the 7th of August 2019 along with strategic security company EGS-Nationwide and Bristol is Open we deployed one of the first city drone detection sensors in Bristol - Here is the press release.

The aim was to begin assessing the frequency and type of drone incursions to get a better understanding about how we can best use the technology to protect people and infrastructure.

The vision of how Col8's technology can merge with our partners capabilities include being able to use the drone detection sensor network integrated in to a city wide network to use assets like CCTV to pinpoint unauthorised flights and potentially the actual pilot. 

Anyone that lives or has been to Bristol knows one simple fact about the city - it is very hilly!

This kind of landscape causes issues for radio signals being transmitted and received, the sensor we use passively intercepts the communications between the operator and drone within line of sight with a range of up to around 3-4Km. In the future we are hoping to expand the coverage of the city by stitching together more sensors but at the moment we are covering an area that looks something like this...

drone sensor coverage - Smaller.png

As you can see from the image we are covering an area of high urban population and venues like Ashton Gate stadium (a large open roof venue hosting music concerts and sporting events) so there are many places where drone flying is prohibited or would have serious consequences if not flown correctly.

It was our expectation to see a few drone flights each week but we saw a LOT more than anyone in the partner teams were expecting.

So how many incidents / incursion did we see in just 8 weeks ... Drum roll please...



That is over:

  • 2 incidents a day.
  • 16 incidents a week.

There were:

  • 12 separate incidents on one day.

Most incidents happened on a Sunday (26%) or a Thursday (19%).

The average flight length was 2.5 Minutes but some lasted up to 18 Minutes.


One of the most interesting piece of data to come out of the first 8 weeks of trialling was the time of day each incident occurred.

An important aspect of safe drone flying is the ability to see the drone you are piloting and objects around it which is obviously impaired when it is dark. The Civil Aviation Authority has additional and strict training about operating drones at night for commercial purposes - for reference the CAA defines night as 30 minutes before Sunrise and 30 minutes after Sunset.

We found that nearly 16% of these incidents occurred at night which is a particular concern for public safety.


The aim of this trial was to see if there was an issue within the city of drone incidents and based on the current results we can say there is a concern of the number of flights occurring.

There is no suggestion all of these flights were illegal, as some may have been by trained professionals with licences to operate in particular areas but this highlights an issue for city management - we just don't know. We can't tell if a particular flight was authorised or not, we can't tell if these flights are happening in the place where authorisation was given.

When people think of issues with drone flights they often think of places like airports where the consequences could be devastating but there are sights of critical national infrastructure all over the country where drone usage is a major issue - just think of landing a helicopter on top of a hopsital within a city or an impact with an electricity pylon.

We are aiming to continue this trial to gather more data and expand with more detailed sensor networks to improve our understanding of the challenge around drone management within the smarter city. Get in contact with your thoughts, questions or ways you can get involved at

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