A recent article in the Washington Post said that drones were entering no-fly zones in Washington and raising security concerns.
“Millions of agile and easy-to-fly quadcopters and other drones are sold in the United States each year, with Christmas providing the latest boost. Yet many of the quandaries that come with the devices have not been addressed. Although any tool or technology, from a rifle to a rental truck, can be misused, security experts say drones have introduced broad new dangers and have outpaced efforts to regulate them.” the article said.
These drones could be serious security threats when flown in areas where drones are not allowed as they can carry surveillance cameras or even explosives and can easily evade ground defenses. Many experts have said that threats from drones are not theoretical.
“While no deaths have been attributed to these unmanned aircraft systems, it is only a matter of time before these systems are directly or indirectly responsible for loss of life or interference with critical infrastructure in the homeland,” the article quoted an analysis prepared by members of a team at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as saying.
The Washington post article added that drones inhabit a curious space in U.S. law, making them particularly difficult to regulate. They have been deemed “aircraft,” just like a Boeing 787, so they can’t simply be knocked from the sky. Sometimes dubbed “flying laptops,” they also are covered by laws against wiretapping and computer hacking. And most drones are categorized as “model aircraft,” but Congress has said the Federal Aviation Administration generally can’t issue regulations covering those.
There are other complications too as opening up laws protecting electronic communications could have significant civil liberties implications. Security concerns from various agencies including from the FBI have made it difficult for drone users and regulations that would allow much broader uses of drones have been held up.
There were also fears of a surgical strike, the article said. “In the Washington region, drone policing can be an absurd and disturbing affair, as efforts to deal with brazen and sometimes comical behavior are colored by a post-9/11 sense that potent attacks could come at any moment,”
People have been detained for drone flying related incidents. For example in 2015 one man was detained for flying a drone inside the Jefferson memorial and was later said to be negative for any suspicious indicators. Similarly a drone belonging to two Ukrainians was confiscated after it was flown near the Washington monument.
A drone attack can be a way for adversaries to inflict harm on the U.S at the lowest cost, defense experts said.
The Department of Homeland Security says that “without statutory relief we remain constrained in responding” to the threat of drones and must rely on “conventional means.”
Without legal changes, the agency is “limited in its ability to fully develop counter UAS technologies — further delaying our security response,” the article quoted Department of Homeland Security’s spokeswoman.
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