AMU Editor's Pick Homeland Security Opinion

In US Airspace, You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff

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US airspace drone
By Ben Lerner

HSToday

The past couple of months have seen some positive developments for the commercial utilization of drones in the United States. Although the industries seeking to use them are not where they’d hoped to be by now as far as the integration of drones into American airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed its long-awaited “small drone” rules, allowing businesses to fly drones weighing less than fifty-five pounds, provided they meet certain requirements, such as flying only at daytime and keeping them within the visual line-of-sight of the operators, among others.

The FAA recently granted Amazon.com permission to proceed with conducting outdoor test flights for its incipient drone-delivery service, provided Amazon testing complies with limits similar to those in the FAA’s proposed rules.

From the homeland security perspective, however, it’s not all good news about drones. The average private individual can purchase drones for recreational purposes, and the equipment to build a rudimentary drone is widely available commercially – and, they could potentially be configured to carry out explosive or other attacks; or be used for surveillance purposes in aiding the planning and execution of an attack by other means.

Because such drones are small and fly at low altitudes, are portable and can be launched with relative ease, they present a sort of “less is more” challenge for national security apparatuses typically wired to deal with higher-profile aerial threats like hijacked commercial airliners or other large, manned aircraft.

The New York Police Department already has expressed its concern that drones could be used in terrorist attacks on New York City – a legitimate concern prompted in part by a drone landing on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s podium during a 2013 speech in Germany. French authorities have yet to identify who is behind a series of unauthorized drone flights over landmarks and sensitive installations across France, and some officials in federal law enforcement have said drug cartels likely will start using drones to enhance their surveillance capabilities along border areas.

Read the full article at Homeland Security Today

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