Use of Drones as Weapons

2017-10-09T21:27:22+00:00 August 1st, 2017|Threat/Hazard|

Fun Toy or Weapon?

As technology shapes our lives by increasing our effectiveness and our entertainment, these elements can also be used against us.  As drones become increasingly popular and more sophisticated, we need to to consider drones being used as weapons.

Many drones have flown into no-fly zones, such as airports or military installations. It is generally believed that they were there for surveillance purposes, but what prevents one of these drones from being used as a delivery mechanism for a bomb or other attack?  These events can even be considered to be penetration tests, which are singular attacks or events to identify how an organization or company responds.  The test may be looking to answer questions like, “how many guards are there on the shift?”, or “what methods do they have to stop the drone?”  These types of tests help a criminal or terrorist become more successful at achieving their objective.

Drones are becoming a strong threat to companies and people.  A common response is that drones are not able to carry a lot of weight, however drones currently used in the agricultural arena alone have carrying capacities of up to 22 lbs.  “A briefcase bomb is approximately 50 pounds, and a pipe bomb is generally in the range of 5 pounds of TNT equivalent” (source: https://www.fema.gov/pdf/plan/prevent/rms/428/fema428_ch4.pdf). Furthermore, the distance that can be flown by these drones can go as far as 1-3 miles. Not only can the drones fly for a long distance, they are not able to be traced back to the pilot. An even greater concern, would be that successful attacks can be carried out by the same pilot for a longer period of time until they make a mistake and can be caught.  Catching this criminal will be very difficult.

With this type of payload delivery method available, it is a large concern that a group can fly multiple drones into a heavily populated area, such as an open air stadium or concert, and create a mass-casualty incident.  If 100 drones flew into a stadium and detonated, not only will you have blast injuries, but many other people will be injured from trying to escape and trampling others.  If these were dirty bombs, chemical, or biological attacks then triaging an decontamination would be difficult and overwhelming.

So, how can we defend against such attacks?  There are currently four main methods that are being used to protect against malicious drones:

  1. Other Drones: Individuals have been using other drones to capture or attack malicious drones.  Nets launched from the drones can bring another drone down before it reaches its destination, but can only capture one or two drones at a time before needing to be reloaded.
  2. Net Cannons: Net canons have been deployed to capture drones.  These have a more limited range, but have sophisticated targeting software and can be reloaded quickly.
  3. Frequency Disrupting Guns: These devices can disrupt the remote control and the GPS to quickly bring the drones down with little damage.  These devices are currently being used in a limited capacity by government agencies.
  4. Birds of Prey:  Eagles, hawks, and falcons can be used to capture drones.  These birds have been trained to retrieve one or multiple drones.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting your assets, buildings, and people from other threats or hazards contact Circadian Risk Inc.

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Daniel Young
Daniel Young is the Founder and CEO at Circadian Risk Inc. He was a Regional Bioterrorism Coordinator, Security Account Manager, and has been a security and risk expert for over 10 years.