Beware of drones!

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By 2017-10-15

By Methmalie Dissanayake

"When you are in your room, you see a spider on the ceiling but you do not mind it. After a few seconds the spider suddenly speeds up and pricks you. You see it as a spider, but it is actually a tiny Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). From the first prick the UAV makes sure that you are the real target, by comparing your DNA with information it has installed with.

Speaking further he said, "These kinds of scenarios are not science fiction anymore. This is the reality we have to face today in this modern world."

A threat to the security

Addressing a media briefing at the SLAF Headquarters on 10 October, Commander of the SLAF Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy pointed out that taking measures to prevent threats to national security from drones and other unmanned crafts is essential in the current environment, where technology is evolving rapidly.

"The development of technology makes our lives easier, but at the same time the UAVs like drones can be a huge threat to the national security of any country. Terrorists and subversives can use drones to create fear in the society. Therefore, we should consider as to how these threats can be minimized," he added.

To address this issue, a separate session called 'Drones; Friend or Foe?' was held at the Colombo Air Symposium 2017. Air Commodore Dilshan Wasage and Security Analyst Nilanthan Niruthan participated in the session.

Uses of drones

According to the Business Insider, UAVs have been around for about a century. In 1918, the US military had its first UAV, which acted as a 'cruise missile' in combat. Nicknamed the Kettering Bug. Adolf Hitler used UAVs in Second World War to attack London and those attacks cost England more than 5,000 lives.

Today, while militaries have been spending colossal amounts of money to develop UAV technology, commercial drones have become cheaper, lighter and more sophisticated.

The total drone market today is close to $10 billion worldwide, Business Insider revealed. Due to the fact that drones can be easily accessed, they have become a 'headache' for the security forces, Air Commodore Wasage noted. He said these objects are hard to monitor or regulate. Therefore, falling in the wrong hands, drones could make a serious blow to the national security in any country.

Drones and terrorism

UAVs are capable of delivering incendiary devices, grenades, and perhaps even more dangerous weapons, into uncontrolled airspace in the same way unmanned aerial vehicles. Even if they do not carry weapons as mentioned above, UAVs can cause serious physical damages to a person as well.

Understanding this fact very clearly, terrorist organizations all over the world tend to use UAVs for their terror missions.
In June 2017, international media reported that Islamic State (IS) drones carried out several attacks targeting U.S. Special Operations forces located around the group's de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. Meanwhile, the security experts also warn that the IS can attack civilians in Europe and USA, using drones in near future.

Another terror organization, Taliban, also released several photographs claiming that they also use drones for their missions.

Drones in urban areas

Security Analyst Niruthan focused his presentation at the Colombo Air Symposium 2017 on the drones in urban areas. He said urbanization is rapidly increasing in Asia and Africa. Therefore, possibilities which can happen due to using UAVs in such areas is a fact that everyone should aware of.

Drones flying in urban areas, can cause a potential risk, in the case of crash. Enthusiasts fly over cities, skyscrapers, bridges, to capture beautiful pictures. But due to the high interference risk in the crowded cities, the crashes can appear very often.

Furthermore, in urban areas where several hundred thousands of people live, terrorists and subversives can use drones to create a mass scale of fear.

Considering these possible threats, Canadian government in March 2017 imposed several strict rules along with penalties for breaking them.

Possible solutions

It should be noted that there is no quick solutions for the issues pointed out above.

But the government must implement strict and overarching regulations to help control drone use, especially autonomous drones that are guided by software and GPS location alone.

This would include the standardisation of radio frequencies on which drones can operate, making it easier for security teams to intercept entering unchartered airspace.

Apart from that, automated drones should also have regulated flight plans, so enforcement agencies know the owner of the drone, what it's carrying and its mission, at any given time.

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