June 25, 2012
As exponentially more government and law enforcement drones take to the skies over America, new research has highlighted the fact that the unmanned vehicles are extremely vulnerable and can be relatively easily hijacked and controlled.
Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory are warning that the drones could be “spoofed” and taken over by anyone with the right readily available equipment.
Fox News reports that Humphreys built an advanced spoofer at a cost of just $1000, and has successfully infiltrated the GPS systems of several drones. All he has to do is send a more powerful signal to the drone than it is receiving from an orbiting satellite and he can make the vehicle do anything he commands.
“In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” Humphreys told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”
What’s more, both the Department of Homeland Security and the FAA are aware of the issue, but are doing little to alleviate the problem.
Last week, Humphreys demonstrated to officials from both agencies how he could repeatedly take control of a drone and fly it where ever he liked.
The majority of drones that are being deployed in US airspace now function using unencrypted civilian GPS, leaving them wide open to attack.
“I’m worried about them crashing into other planes,” Humphreys told Fox News. “I’m worried about them crashing into buildings. We could get collisions in the air and there could be loss of life, so we want to prevent this and get out in front of the problem.”
“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile? That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,” Humphreys said.
Last month it was reported that a mystery object, believed to be a surveillance drone almost did cause a mid air collision with with a commercial jet.
The federal government is in the process of rolling out new rules on the use of the unmanned drones, with the Federal Aviation Administration announcing procedures will “streamline” the process through which government agencies, including local law enforcement, receive licenses to operate the aircraft.
Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.
Critics have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.
In addition, A recently uncovered Air Force document circumvents laws and clear the way for the Pentagon to use drones to monitor the activities of Americans.
Professor Humphreys’ research indicates that, in addition to the threat to privacy, the aircraft will also make the skies less safe.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.
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