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Department of Homeland Security tests counter-drone systems to thwart drug smugglers

Counter-drone systems tested by Department of Homeland Security to thwart drug smugglers

The Department of Homeland Security is testing counter-drone systems under authority granted in a 2018 law reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partially to thwart drug smugglers and other criminal organizations at the border.

Department of Homeland Security is testing counter-drone systems to thwart drug smugglers

Into the FAA Reauthorization Act was folded the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 that gives DHS the authority to track, disrupt, disable and destroy unmanned aircraft that threaten assets covered by the law – including the mission of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to safeguard government buildings, reports Washington Technology.

Last Friday, the DHS released a privacy impact assessment that informs us that the United States Border Patrol is in the midst of tests of counter-drone systems near agency facilities and ports of entry. The tests aim to collect information about the use of drones by drug smugglers and other criminal organizations at the border. Furthermore, the tests are designed to determine what the Border Patrol needs to respond adequately and to develop training methods and to evaluate existing technologies.

The Border Patrol’s rules of engagement under the testing terms include disabling unknown or threatening unmanned aircraft, but the document stipulates that agents ” will attempt to approach the [unmanned aerial system] operator directly to discuss the threat before employing C-UAS mitigating technology.”

The U.S. federal government is growing increasingly concerned with the flood of small drones that are hitting the market as these unmanned aircraft can be used in nefarious ways.

According to the news outlet, the tests will take place at agency test and evaluation sites, such as national laboratories, government-owned and operated test ranges, other DHS-developed test sites, component areas of responsibility, DHS facilities, or other covered assets which could include airports, including airports and federal facilities.

The DHS did concede that there is a slight possibility that as part of the tests personally-identifying information might be captured and that acoustic sensors on the counter-drone systems could overhear human audio, “such as an outdoor conversation.” The department said that such information wouldn’t ordinarily be stored but that it could be retained in the course of a law enforcement agency’s investigation.

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Photo credits: Matt York / AP

Haye Kesteloo

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