Technology: Drone Wars
Published by: Bart Franklin on Wednesday July 25th, 2012
I am an aviation enthusiast. As such, I keep up with aviation news. I am becoming increasingly alarmed about something which concerns all of us, not just us flying nuts. Pilotless drones are becoming more and more numerous over the United States. The FAA has stated that there could be 30,000 drones over US airspace within 15 years. As a pilot, I don’t look forward to sharing the skies with flying objects that can’t see me.
In the reauthorization bill for the FAA, Congress mandated the FAA to approve the use of drones in civilian airspace. We have them up in military airspace and flying border patrol, already. These drones are larger than many general aviation aircraft. The FAA expects many of the combat drones returning from the Middle East to be put into service here in the United States. Public safety departments can already operate their own drones up to 25 pounds.
Why should this worry you? Professor Todd Humphries, of the University of Texas, was invited by the Department of Homeland Security to try to hijack these drones. In what the professor described as a simple procedure, he and his students repeatedly took over and even landed these drones. It was just a matter of “spoofing” the GPS signals going to the drones. This is frightening. We worry about terrorists hijacking small aircraft. How about aircraft they don’t have to occupy to control. What kinds of havoc can this cause?
I love what GPS has done for aircraft navigation; but, the GPS signal needs to be secured. Professor Humphries has recommended a coded watermark be placed into the GPS signal, in order to make it much more difficult to commandeer. He maintains that a very meager, on government terms, outlay could solve the problem. I think we need to, at least, consider the problem before our own drones go to war against us.