The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) said it has filed a police report after dozens of drones used to perform light shows at an annual festival plunged into the sea, apparently due to deliberate radio signal interference, causing several of the shows to be canceled.
The police’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau is investigating the case, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
A total of 100 drones had been flown in formation to display various images and words projected into the sky by lights emitted from LED-equipped unmanned flying devices during the CCB (Asia) Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival 2018 on the Central Harbourfront, which was held from Thursday to Sunday.
The light shows were held successfully on the first couple of nights to the delight of the audience. In response to the overwhelming public demand, the HKTB decided to move the show on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. and added an extra one at 7:30 p.m.
However, on Saturday, the drones malfunctioned, with some failing to return to their designated programmed position. More than 40 of the drones plummeted into Victoria Harbour about 30 seconds after the first show began.
The strange occurrence forced the HKTB to announce that both shows had to be canceled.
Because show organizers were unable to replace the drones in time, the light shows scheduled for Sunday were dropped as well.
HKTB executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon told media on Sunday it had initially thought the GPS system that was used to control the drones had been hacked into and sabotaged.
But as it turned out, someone had intentionally interfered with the GPS signals of the drones, causing them to malfunction, Lau said.
Lau said the board was angry because of the incident, noting that it had taken half a year to prepare for the shows.
He said the incident hurt Hong Kong’s image, although he did not give an estimate of the resulting monetary loss.
Mason Hung Chung-hing, HKTB general manager of event and product development, said the drone operator, Sky Magic, has a rich experience in conducting drone shows globally, including in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and mainland China, over the past two years.
The HKTB hired the Singapore-based company after a tendering exercise.
Meanwhile, Wong Yung-shing, president of the HK UAS Flying Club Association Limited, pointed out the incident highlighted the need for commercial aerial services involving drones to be regulated.
He said a flying drone is capable of causing serious damage, even injuries or death, if it falls from the sky.
Despite the incident about the drones, however, more than 120,000 people attended this year’s festival in the first three days, up 20 percent from a year earlier.
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