US military gets go-ahead to take out consumer drones

The US military has announced guidelines outlining its ‘rules of engagement’ for bringing down drones. The regulations explain how army bases will respond to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that encroach on their airspace. A spokesperson from the American military explained the guidance gives the military “the ability to take action to stop these threats and includes disabling, destroying and tracking.”

The move comes over two years after a drone crash landing in the White House alerted security officials to the threat posed by the devices. Shortly after the White House incident, drone manufacturers such as DJI added ‘no-fly zones’ to their software. It was mainly to disable drones flying near major airports, but also prevented their drones from flying over buildings at risk from terrorists. The restrictions angered many drone users, who felt frustrated at having their flying freedoms curtailed.

It’s unclear how the US military will bring down drones it considers a threat. They can’t use Conventional weapons to shoot drones out of the sky. Although other measures could see the army blast out radio waves to disrupt drones while in flight.

In another drone-related announcement, the Pentagon has instructed troops to stop using DJI drones. Why the US army has been using drones not designed for military use is unknown. In its announcement, the Pentagon blamed “cyber vulnerabilities” in DJIs products as the reason for the ban.

The highlighting of DJI’s vulnerabilities might cause UK police forces to re-think their use of the Chinese manufacturer’s technology. It’s known that several UK police forces have started to experiment with drone devices (specifically DJIs). DJI drones are widely regarded as the best available to consumers. However, the US military’s clamp down on their use raises the question of whether public services can rely on them for critical security matters.

The US army’s clarification on its drone policy is overdue. Drones have been commercialised for some time and have always posed some degree of threat to military operations. The new focus on done guidelines could make the UK government re-assess its own stance on the technology. The government not only needs to keep regulations up to date but also analyse the risks and benefits of drones in matters of national security.