The Department of Homeland Security is back at it again in what seems to be a response to DJI responding to its memo last week. The main takeaway from DHS? They want us to know they aren’t paranoid. I’m not a psychologist nor have I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but when someone says they aren’t paranoid, my initial reaction is that they are, in fact, paranoid.
The agency whose job is actually to be paranoid went all in on an 11-minute video explaining the risks of Chinese-manufactured drones. First, let’s take a look at a UAS (drone) special section on the agency’s website. Here are their primary concerns.
Weaponized or Smuggling Payloads – Depending on power and payload size, UAS may be capable of transporting contraband, chemical, or other explosive/weaponized payloads.
Prohibited Surveillance and Reconnaissance – UAS are capable of silently monitoring a large area from the sky for nefarious purposes.
Intellectual Property Theft – UAS can be used to perform cyber crimes involving theft of trade secrets, technology, or sensitive information.
Intentional Disruption or Harassment – UAS may be used to disrupt or invade the privacy of other individuals.
Fellas, drone enthusiasts using DJI products have to spin circles to calibrate the damn compass. Then the app crashes. I know you said you’re not paranoid, but yeah…
Now the video is a real gem of why they aren’t overreacting. Here’s a small piece:
“There is real concern about drones and the potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy. We’re not being paranoid. Just look at the short amount of time it took for aircraft to become weapons. Less than ten years after the Wright brothers first flight, a person flew a plane and dropped a brick on someone’s head. That was followed with pistols, long guns, machine guns, leading to the era of dogfights. Soon after that limited precision bombs and missiles evolved. It is not hard to imagine UAS following a similar path.”
Wow. Not to nitpick, but if we are cracking open history books, let’s do it. UAS stands for Unmanned Aerial Systems of which another government agency right down the street has already weaponized. Maybe you missed the past two decades of drone strikes courtesy of the Department of Defense during the War on Terror, but the whole ‘it’s not hard to imagine UAS following a similar path’ is missing a vital piece of history.
The MQ-1A/B Predator isn’t firing party favors. That would be a Hellfire missile. It has seen near nonstop action in various conflicts since the September 11th attacks.
Need another? The MQ-9 Reaper has several armed variants designed to loiter and attack targets with precision munitions.
What about consumer, off-the-shelf drones? Say a Mavic 2 Pro? I enjoy the hell out of it, but its payload is zero unless you start hacking the system. Then maybe you could tie a cellphone to it.
At some point, common sense has to break out. Are there privacy issues surrounding camera drones? Yes. Are there going to be armed swarms attacking Americans? No. Angel Has Fallen is a movie. Sure, it looks like a good Netflix option, but I wouldn’t draft a memo and use the plot as the basis for unfounded horrors of consumer camera drones.
Lastly, if you want to use history as a guide, make sure it’s based on actual facts. Alternative facts are not real. That’s code for bs. DHS is being used in a trade war. Let’s face up to that reality and calm down. DHS is starting to sound worse than paranoid. Foolish would be a better term.