America Is Not Ready for the Drone Threat

    Jason Snead, John-Michael Seibler

    Security, Americas

    U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Briar Purty tests Drone Killer Counter-UAS Technology during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 21, 2018. Picture taken March 21, 2018. U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel/Handout via REUTERS.

    Drones are exploding in popularity, but if certain nefarious individuals have their way, drones may soon be actually exploding.

    Drones are exploding in popularity, but if certain nefarious individuals have their way drones may soon be actually exploding. There is a real potential for enemies to use drones to harm Americans and damage our nation’s critical infrastructure.

    Already, overseas terrorists are deploying drone bombers. Domestic criminals are also using drones to commit an array of crimes, including ferrying contraband into prisons, with disastrous consequences. Earlier this month, an FBI official reported that a drone swarm disrupted a hostage rescue operation by driving agents from their observation post.

    Unfortunately, efforts to counter such threats are currently hamstrung by a series of federal laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement agencies to effectively interdict or engage a drone. The reason for this is because doing so would risk criminal prosecution for violating U.S. laws that make it a crime to damage or destroy an aircraft, hack a computer, or interfere with wireless communications, among others.

    Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) recently introduced the “Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018.” Its objective: beginning to grant law enforcement agencies the necessary legal authorities to mitigate drone-related threats.

    That cannot happen soon enough.

    By all accounts, the criminal drone operations we have so far seen are the tip of the iceberg. Like the innovators and entrepreneurs who are constantly inventing new, lifesaving uses for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”), criminals are adapting drone technologies for their illicit aims.

    Furthermore, just as market forces are driving exponential growth in lawful drone operations, so too are we likely to see more illegal UAS conduct.

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