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The Growing Threat Of Weaponized Drone Attacks

The Growing Threat Of Weaponized Drone Attacks

Drone flights are everyday occurrences; the number of registered drones grew quickly from 2013 to the May 2017 FAA report that there were one million registered drones. Due to commercial drone training and safety programs from The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and other organizations, the vast number of flights are lawful and performed without an intention to violate laws, privacy rights, or safety. A growing number of flights result in incursion incidents and contribute to the rising rate of detected criminal activities.

Promoting Drone Responsibility
The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) initiated the NIAS Unmanned Aviation Safety (UAS) Center of Excellence. Working with the FAA, the goals of the NIAS-UAS COE focus on drone safety, reducing drone incursions into commercial airspace, and raising public awareness of drones and drone technology. NIAS will help the FAA reduce the risks and public danger associated with unauthorized drone use.

Sounding the Alarm
In an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen describes the threats and potential threats from bad actors using drones. It is a potential threat due to the limited range of tools and resources calibrated to the scale of UAS incursions. If we cannot see them on radar screens or otherwise detect them, then the society is vulnerable, and the risks are both present and clearly dangerous. (Need to cite)

In the News
Weaponized drones have been a feature of military field weaponry and battlefield surveillance. On Saturday, August 3, 2018, the world reacted to a shocking story of an armed drone attack in an attempted assassination of the President of Venezuela. During a large public event, attackers launched two drones packed with plastic explosives at the reviewing stand where President Maduro gave a nationally televised speech. One drone exploded overhead, and the second crashed on a building nearby. There were no injuries, but the spectacle left a mark on the world’s attention that such things were not only possible but in existence.

The Venezuela incident reflected the risk of weaponized drones to the general public and large gatherings. It demonstrated the need to develop means to protect crowds and densely populated areas against potential drone mounted threats.

New Laws and Powers
Sec. Nielsen has asked the Congress to consider legislation to increase resources and speed up innovations needed to address the threats of bad actors using drone technology in ways that endanger security and public safety. The specific items included adding means to detect drones in all levels of airspace; technological innovations that can enable law enforcement to interrupt drone flight controls and divert or control a rogue flight. The DHS also wishes to initiate testing and development programs in populated areas, urban areas, and beyond the line of sight.

Fighting for Positive Change
The vast potential of public and commercial drones for productive work is nearly boundless. They can help fight forest fires, support rescues, and deliver perishable items quickly such as in organ donation programs. The potential for poor judgment and abuse in connection with unmanned flights systems poses a recognized potential threat to public safety. The DHS joins FAA and the USDOT as leading federal efforts to promote and regulate UAS activity for improved public safety.

1. FAA Drone Registry Tops One Million 
2. NIAS Launches Drone Center of Excellence