It comes as no surprise that the use of drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), has risen in popularity, with everyone from photographers to law enforcement finding new and innovative uses for the small aircraft. While there are many positive attributes to the use of drones, such as aerial surveillance, there are equally as many flaws and negative impacts. As drones become more available and easier to access, the concern for national security becomes a graver and more concerning topic for discussion. Here is a brief overview of why and how drones are seen as a security threat, and what is being done to combat the role drones play in illegal operations.

For many, drones are used recreationally as a hobby and a way to capture aerial photographs or videos. After acquiring a drone there are several requirements and regulations users must adhere to, and these regulations can differ slightly between recreation and commercial use. Aside from registering your drone, operators must be aware of the Federal Aviation Administration’s airspace restrictions and must follow guidelines such as flying within visual-line-of-sight, respecting privacy, and avoiding emergency situations.

However, despite the regulations and guidelines put in place for flying a drone, there are many with ill intentions who use the power of drones to negatively impact groups of people. In an article from TIME Magazine, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen shares that drones are being used by terrorists overseas to plot attacks and criminals are utilizing them for illicit purposes along the country border. Not only do drones offer an advantage to criminals by leveraging an aerial viewpoint, but they also have the capabilities to carry objects. These airborne threats are significant and in some occasions lethal, as we have seen drones carrying bombs, tear gas, and even a loaded gun that could be fired remotely. We’ve seen criminals fly illicit substances over our countries border and into our prison facilities. In one instance, a drone even aided in the escape of a prison inmate when supplies were flown in and dropped off via drone. A vital factor to drone use is the development of technology that will detect and prevent illegal use.

With the numerous possibilities of airborne attacks and security threats drones present, US Homeland Security is developing new ways to detect and mitigate these types of security threats. This past October, legislation was passed to develop counter drone systems and technology. While there are concerns for how counter systems will operate, the legislation opens the door for testing, evaluating and collecting more data on how these systems will operate.   

Kelly Hoggan Aviation Security Footer