in july from Last year, a DJI Mavic 2 drone approached a power substation in Pennsylvania. Hanging 4-foot-long nylon ropes from its swivels, thick copper wire attached to the ends with electrical tape. The device has been stripped of any identifiable tags, as well as the camera and memory card in it, in an apparent attempt by its owner to avoid detection. A possible goal, according to a joint security bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center, was to “disrupt operations by creating a short circuit.”
The drone crashed onto the roof of a nearby building before it could reach its apparent target, damaging a vertigo in the process. Its operator still does not exist. According to the bulletin, the accident that was reported for the first time by ABC, represents the first known instance of a modified drone system being used to specifically “target” energy infrastructure in the United States. However, it seems unlikely that it will be the last.
In response to a request for comment, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson wrote that the agency “regularly shares information with federal, state, local, tribal, and territory officials to ensure the safety and security of all communities across the country.”
When it comes to the potential for consumer drones to wreak havoc, the experts do it The alarm has been sounded for at least six years, saying that its wide availability and capabilities provide an opportunity for bad actors. In 2018, a drone loaded with explosives apparently carried out what Attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. ISIS and other terrorist groups used Consumer quadcopters for both surveillance and attack operations.
But the Pennsylvania incident represents a worrying escalation in the use of drones in the United States. The United States has had accidents before: a drone landed on the White House lawn in 2015, and a recent surge in drone sightings near airports and other critical locations led to a stampede by the Federal Aviation Administration. So far, these intrusions can be written off as accidental. not longer.
“I’m surprised it took so long,” says Colin Clark, director of policy and research at The Soufan Group, a security and intelligence consultancy. “If you have a tiny bit of knowledge about how drones work, and you can reach for some primitive explosives or just ram them into things, you can do a lot of damage.”
The Pennsylvania drone operator appears to have tried a less aggressive approach. But efforts to conceal the identity of the operator may have contributed to their failure to contact the intended target. The joint publication says that by removing the camera, they had to rely on line-of-sight navigation, rather than being able to see with the drone’s eye. While these efforts have failed, the report’s analysts are clear that it is unlikely to be an aberration; If anything, they expect to see increased drone activity over the energy sector and other critical infrastructure facilities as the use of these systems in the United States continues to expand.
This escalating threat has not been met with proportionate mitigation. While the Federal Aviation Administration places limits on where consumers can fly drones, security experts and drone manufacturers alike have urged it to do more. “Just like manufacturers of pickup trucks or cell phones, we almost don’t have the ability to control what people do with their drones once they have them,” DJI spokesperson Adam Lisberg says. “DJI has long supported giving authorities the legal ability to take immediate action against drones that pose a clear threat, and we have long supported laws that penalize some intentional misuse of drones.”