You might recall last month when a man accidentally flew his remote-controlled hobby drone onto the White House lawn. The man said he’d been drinking, and lost control of the aircraft.
But what if it had been intentional – and nefarious? Could toy drones be weaponized and used for terror?
According to Wired Magazine, 10 days before the drone crashed on the White House lawn, “officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.”
“The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.)”
“But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week.”DJI, the Chinese company that manufactures the Phantom, one of the lowest cost and most popular drones on the market, is now adding the White House to its “geofence” firmware technology, which prevents the drones from being flown to certain locations, such as around airports. However the White House geofence is only the second location that isn’t an airport, according to a company spokesman—the first was Tiananmen Square.
DJI is preparing to expand its geofences for airports from 710 to 10,000, and prevent users from flying across some national borders—a reaction to the recent discovery that drug smugglers are trying to use drones to fly small loads of meth from Mexico into the US, according to the report in Wired.
The problem is, DJI is just one drone manufacturer among many, and even its older technology drones don’t include the same geofence technology.
The bottom line is, there’s really no way to stop terrorists from manipulating technology for their own evil ends. After all, they figured out how to turn pressure cookers and underpants into bombs.
Just something else to keep you awake at night.