Wired: "Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones"

We have a standing policy here at DIY Drones of no discussion of weaponizing drones, but the White House incident was so important and this Wired article so illuminating that I'm going to make an exception this time. From Wired:

If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.

The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week.

Attendee Daniel Herbert snapped a photo and posted it to his website along with detailed notes from the conference. The day after the White House incident, he says, DHS phoned him and politely asked him to remove the entire post. He complied. “I’m not going to be the one to challenge Homeland Security and cause more contention,” says Herbert, who runs a small drone shop in Delaware called Skygear Solutions.

Read the rest here

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Comment by Shawn Thorvilson on February 6, 2015 at 7:11pm
I want to see that exercise scenario!
Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on February 6, 2015 at 7:32pm

Doesn't this post contravene the "no weaponized drones" principle of DIY Drones, Chris? ;)

Although, I agree it's an important topic to discuss.  I think the solution is less about banning drones, which is an impossible task when faced with "lawlessness" of potential attackers, but to make the whole administration less worthwhile attacking.  The more it wields its power about, the more likely it is the focus of attack from those on the other end of the power wielding.  Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, so to speak...

Such a process however includes some people admitting they are much less powerful than they once thought they were.

Comment by technicus acityone on February 6, 2015 at 8:35pm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/05/us-usa-drones-poll-idUSKB...
Hysterical dronehaters media campaign continues

Comment by Tom Mahood on February 6, 2015 at 8:55pm

A Phantom 2 can fly with a 3 pound payload???

Comment by Martin on February 6, 2015 at 10:03pm

Something doesnt smell right here. 

Comment by ArileyS on February 6, 2015 at 10:33pm

A Phantom strapped with 3lbs of explosives would truly be a ROFLcopter

Comment by MikeRover on February 6, 2015 at 11:52pm

I have yet to work out the exact social conversion factor between gun deaths and "scary, rare improbable deaths".  Compare the number of people shot in multi-victim shootings to the number of people killed by, say, shoe bombers on planes.  No restrictions on guns based on probably a good few hundred deaths, but we have to take our shoes off at security on the basis of one attempt.

 

I see this debate going the same way.  For some reason society is way more comfortable with something that's of questionable recreational use but DESIGNED to kill, than something that is INTENDED to be recreational but someone might possibly work out a way to, but has not yet actually used it to cause harm.

 

Sounds like most of their use cases involved explosives which, last time I checked, weren't that easy to get hold of. If they were, wouldn't there be a lot more random ground-based bombings?

Comment by Greg Nuspel on February 7, 2015 at 12:02am

So I guess you can't do assassinations with in line of sight according to the people who run the US military and Homeland Security. Now can someone remind me, which drone shot Kennedy? 

Comment by Acorn on February 7, 2015 at 8:09am
I'm sure our govt has the technology to scramble any radio frequencies that would disable any threaght to our top officials from assassin drones. These are excuses.
Comment by Acorn on February 7, 2015 at 8:26am
. . . and I'm sure the terrorists are chomping at the bit for FAA to get their act together so they can get on with their terror / assassin business ventures. Excuses!

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