Criminal Gangs worldwide are beginning to use drones to commit a slew of crimes.
Last winter, on the outskirts of a large U.S.city, an FBI hostage rescue team set up an elevated observation post to assess an unfolding situation. Soon they heard the buzz of small drones — and then the tiny aircraft were all around them, swooping past in a series of “high-speed low passes at the agents in the observation post to flush them,” the head of the agency’s operational technology law unit told attendees of the AUVSIXponential conference here. Result: “We were then blind,” said Joe Mazel, meaning the group lost situational awareness of the target. “It definitely presented some challenges.”
The incident remains “law enforcement-sensitive,” Mazel said Wednesday, declining to say just where or when it took place. But it shows how criminal groups are using small drones for increasingly elaborate crimes.
Mazel said the suspects had backpacked the drones to the area in anticipation of the FBI’s arrival. Not only did they buzz the hostage rescue team, they also kept a continuous eye on the agents, feeding video to the group’s other members via YouTube. “They had people fly their own drones up and put the footage to YouTube so that the guys who had cellular access could go to the YouTube site and pull down the video,” he said.
The report also claims that drones are becoming more frequently used in robberies and home invasions as well. They also use these drones to observe bigger target facilities, spot security gaps, and determine patterns of life: where the security guards go and when.
In Australia, they are using them for drug smuggling. Members of gangs stand on mountains overlooking law enforcement and use the drones to relay the positions to their smugglers.
Two amendments in the most recent FAA authorization are trying to tackle the growing threats of drones.
The first would make it illegal to weaponize drones.
The second would require drones that fly beyond their operators’ line of sight to broadcast an identity allowing law enforcement to track and connect them to a real person.