Magazine article National Defense

Small Off-the-Shelf Drones Causing Alarm in Security Circles

Magazine article National Defense

Small Off-the-Shelf Drones Causing Alarm in Security Circles

Article excerpt

* Small, readily available unmanned aerial systems pose an increased risk to national security as the technology grows more capable, a panel of experts testified before Congress.

"Technology typically outstrips policy, and this technology has certainly stretched the capacity of the U.S. i government's bureaucracy to swiftly provide a counter drone strategy," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Frederick Roggero, president and chief executive officer of Resilient Solutions Ltd., a consulting firm.

European countries have already been working on balancing the need to protect citizens from malicious use of drones while preserving recreational and commercial advantages, said Roggero. The United Kingdom in 2012 developed a counter UAS system to defend the Olympic stadium in London. This system was improved upon and used again in 2013 and 2014 to defend world leaders during the G8 Summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, and the NATO Summit in Wales, he said before the House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee hearing on oversight and management efficiency.

NATO already has classification guidelines for small drones based on features such as size, weight, capability, engine capacity, fuel or battery requirements, speed and payload, said Roggero.

"It's a good idea to look toward international partners instead of reinventing the wheel every time," he added.

Another concern is that even the smallest unmanned drones--less than 55 pounds and costing just a few hundred dollars--can cause significant damage, said Todd Humphreys, an assistant professor for the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

"Commercial, off-the-shelf technology when modified is perfectly capable of carrying out [terrorist attacks]," he said. "In fact, even as we speak, in Ukraine the conflict is involving off-the-shelf drone hardware modified for that conflict for surveillance and [weaponry]."

They also lack the defenses to ward off cyber assaults, said Humphreys.

In 2012 the radio navigation laboratory that he directs at the University of Texas found unmanned aerial systems are easily "spoofed," meaning their GPS navigation systems can be commandeered by an outside source. …

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