Small UAS sold freely: major risk

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Whitehouse Drone

“This is a threat many worldwide prefer not to deal with,” say Israeli experts in response to the incident in which a drone landed on the White House lawn.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that a small unidentified unmanned aerial system (UAS) was founded earlier on the White House lawn. Earnest further said the drone posed no security risk, and added he has no information to divulge concerning the size of the system or its type. Earnest nevertheless clarified the US Secret Service was looking into the matter.

Many UAS models are sold freely at toy stores and across the US, as well as on the internet. Israeli experts told i-HLS that for quite some time, they have been calling attention to the fact that what is being referred to as “those little toys” could easily be turned into a weapon in the hands of terrorists. “You attach an explosive charge to a small unit which costs $300, and presto, you’ve got yourself a flying bomb you can guide into any building,” one of the experts explained to i-HLS.

Experts say there is no choice but to develop technologies which would prevent remote control of these UASs, so that they would not be able to fly over sensitive buildings such as the White House or over strategic facilities.

Register to iHLS Israel Homeland Security


Meanwhile, there is no current solutions, and many sensitive locations worldwide are exposed to small UAS-based attacks. Recent years have seen a major rise in the availability of small UASs, primarily systems which are capable of vertical takeoff. Those can be mounted and launched from the top of any car.

Intelligence agencies worldwide are aware of the problem, yet there is no available solution to date. Security experts have been alerting to the potential danger posed by the small UASs which are sold so freely, to any customer.

More and more drones, including larger models, are sold over the internet as well, and experts caution they are capable of carrying explosive charges weighing several pounds. “In the wrong hands, such a system could be turned into a guided missiles capable of hitting a target with high precision, and all for a few hundred dollars,” explained one expert.

One of the proposed security measures currently being tested, is to block radio signals at certain frequencies in close proximity to sensitive sites. Nevertheless, experts explain that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be pre-programmed in such a way that it does not require continuous uninterrupted radio control. “This problem will become worse, and it will be a major concern for any security agency in the world,” predicted one expert.

Measures such as limiting the sale of UASs above a certain takeoff weight are impractical, as many of the models are sold over the net. Moreover, the sale is often made with little information on the buyer.