A LOCAL drone flier has described how he managed to land his £300 remotely controlled aircraft on the Royal Navy’s most advanced warship completely unchallenged.
And even when the pilot, who does not wish to be identified, approached security personnel later, he said no one seemed too bothered that he had flown his Parrot Bebop drone over the recently launched Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest warship in British history that cost £3 billion to build, and then touched down on the vast four acre flight deck.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross LibDem MSP Jamie Stone said he was concerned at the security implications and would consider tabling a question in parliament about it.
The drone flier said: "I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no one about to prevent it from landing although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.
"The second reason was more technical. I received a high wind warning as I was videoing up and down the flight deck and my control system advised me to land.
"I expected the deck to be steel which would send the drone’s electronic landing systems haywire, but I was able to touch down OK and took a couple of shots.
"It turned out that the deck is covered by some sort of material to give better grip and it did not interfere with the electronics.
"There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship."
After taking off again from the carrier, the pilot flew the drone back to Newhall Point on the Black Isle where it took off from and later posted his video and still pictures on the Black Isle Images Facebook page he and a small group of other photography and drone fans operate.
The pilot said: "After I posted the picture taken from the flight deck I got some flak from other drone users who were saying ‘You are going to make a lot of people unhappy.’
"I thought the only law I had broken was that I flew over a vessel I didn’t have control over.
"I was a bit concerned so I drove round to Invergordon and spoke to the port security and explained that I wanted to speak to someone from the ship such as the duty watch or the captain about what I had done.
"I was only able to speak to some heavily armed police, I think from the MoD, and they said there was no one available on the carrier as they were at dinner ashore. No-one seemed too concerned, but the officer I spoke to said he would pass it up the chain of command.
"I was fascinated by the Queen Elizabeth and wanted to have a crack at filming her. I wasn’t out to get anyone in trouble. What’s done is done, and I can’t undo the images I shot.
"I think if the MoD were in any way bothered by this then these videos and stills would not have been allowed to see the light of day.
"The ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet and doesn’t have aircraft, so I don’t think its defence systems that could block radio signals will be fully operational. If they were there would be no way I would get within a mile of this vessel.
"But it is worth a lot of money and I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything."
Mr Stone said: "I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious. Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage."
When the Inverness Courier asked the Royal Navy for a comment a spokesman referred us to BAE Systems and the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the consortium that built the giant carrier.
A spokeswoman said on Thursday they would investigate the drone flyer’s claims and come back with a statement, but this had not reached us as we went to press.
The 920ft long, 65,000 tonnes Queen Elizabeth made a second visit to Invergordon this week, arriving on Wednesday morning to take on more fuel and supplies.