Enemy above the gates | AFCEA International

Anyone can fly a commercial drone at low altitude, but with certain limitations. Nevertheless, at present, there are few restrictions on these flights as the lack of regulation makes them almost impossible to enforce.

“Given rapid technological advances and the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems, the public safety and homeland security communities recognize that drones can be used in nefarious or malicious ways to harm people, disrupt business and damage infrastructure,” said Shawn McDonald, Science and Technology Program Manager at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Events of the recent past have shown just how significant threats can be to the airline industry.

In January 2019, Newark Airport in New Jersey was closed for 90 minutes because a drone was operating illegally in the area. The cost of this disruption was $90 million. In South Carolina in 2018, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) caused a helicopter crash, making it the first such accident on record, according to a report from the University of Economics and Business. from Athens.

An industry group has identified drone intrusion near airports as a growing concern. “The entry of an unauthorized aircraft into a portion of controlled airspace without prior authorization from the air traffic services provider can lead to multiple safety, efficiency, environmental and security issues” , the International Civil Aviation Organization said in a working paper.

But for DHS, the risks go beyond airports.

“[Customs and Border Patrol] agents find drones that may have been used to smuggle drugs or people across the southern border. These drones typically carry narcotics and surveillance cameras, but they can carry other threats or dangers,” Saadat Laiq, DHS Science and Technology program manager, said in an email to SIGNAL Magazine.

In many cases, despite flagrant violations, not much can be done.

“Current law prohibits state and local law enforcement from intercepting communications or accessing a computer without authorization,” Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) told a March 2022 hearing. almost impossible to trace the operator of a drone.

A drone uses technologies, such as remote controls, which under federal law are considered private communications and therefore can only be operated after legal process. Given the fluid nature of using drones, it is practically impossible to complete formalities on time.

While border areas or airports might have several legal arguments to protect their airspaces from prying eyes, critical facilities may have fewer safeguards and the activities detected by law enforcement are less clear.

Repeated flights over refineries, power plants or other infrastructure across the country are regularly detected. Nonetheless, those operating critical sites of interest can restrict unmanned flights, according to the widely cited section 2209 (49 USC 40101), which states that applicants can petition the Federal Aviation Administration to effectively prohibit or restrict unmanned flights. drones above or near fixed installations. And more regulation is expected.

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