Security officials, police and legal experts from around the world are gathered in London for a global conference on tackling the threats posed to prisons, airports, nuclear facilities and other infrastructure by consumer drones.

The Countering Drones conference, which organisers describe as the first of its kind, reflects concerns that increasingly high-powered and affordable models of drones are posing new and wide-ranging security challenges for police and other protection forces.

Nearly 80% of people surveyed by Defence IQ, the conference organisers, said they believed a major security incident involving drones in civilian airspace was strongly likely or almost certain to happen in the next five years.

In some areas, such as at airports and in prisons, drones are already causing widespread disruption, but the conference also highlights areas such as at sporting events and seaports, where threats posed by unmanned aircraft are still emerging.

A programme advertises sessions by officials from the US, UK, France, Israel, Switzerland and Germany, among others, and offers intriguing hints as to the solutions being considered – one session by a Canadian researcher is titled Can we just shoot them down?

Reports of near-misses between drones and commercial aircraft have risen sharply: four serious incidents were reported in July alone, with unmanned aircraft spotted as close as five metres from passenger jets taking off or landing.

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