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Star Wars producers want a ‘drone shield’ to stop set leaks

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Myatt’s photograph as coming from a drone. We regret the error.

Remember the photographer who snapped a picture of the Millennium Falcon on a Star Wars VII set in England? Matthew Myatt, the original shutterbug, took his picture from a helicopter, but it’s the subsequent wave of enthusiasts seeking similar images with their drones that has the the producers of the movie on pins and needles. They’ve reportedly requested a “DroneShield” to protect the set against the onslaught of aerial surveillance.

And they’re still waiting: The U.S. State Department has so far refused the manufacturer’s export application to send the equipment to the United Kingdom.

The DroneShield, according to its makers, helps to give site managers advanced warnings about “helicopters and drones commonly used by paparazzi and media.” Alerts can be sent via SMS and email and connected up to a variety of security systems. Exactly how it works isn’t clear, but it doesn’t seem able to shoot drones from the sky with targeted laser blasts.

Related: C-3PO actor details costume changes for Star Wars: Episode VII

DroneShield says it has orders for more than 20 gadgets from overseas companies but at the moment is unable to fulfil them. “We weren’t able to ship overseas because our ITAR (export) application, filed in May, hadn’t been approved,” a DroneShield representative told Motherboard. “It is now September and it STILL hasn’t been approved.”

In fact, the DroneShield was ordered back in June, so if it had been processed promptly then we might never have seen videos such as this one. Filming continues on the seventh movie in the Star Wars franchise, with the release date set at December 18, 2015. The production company didn’t respond to a request for comment on the DroneShield story.

The FAA has been flexing its muscles in trying to limit the use of drones by aerial enthusiasts until it can come up with a complete set of regulations to control their use. Rules covering drone use in the United Kingdom, where Star Wars VII is being filmed, are equally vague. If Disney wants to completely protect against overheard drone shots, it may have to resort to more drastic measures in the future.