Drones are popular among videographers and photographers for their ability to capture incredible footage from the air, but criminals have also realized that they can use the drones to help them with their illegal activities. Recently at the AUVSI Xponentional conference, the head of the FBI’s operational technology law unit described a scenario when one of their rescue teams was harassed by small drones. The team was attempting to set up an observation post when the drones came flying down at them. The team “lost situational awareness,” which hindered their process, reported Defense One.
The criminal group then kept the drones in the area to keep watch on the FBI. The video feed was uploaded to YouTube for others to access. Called “counter surveillance,” the technique of keeping an eye on authorities is becoming more prevalent among criminals.
Some criminals use drones to keep watch over police departments, to make sure that nobody they know is ratting them out to authorities. Others use drones to keep an eye on port authority workers. When someone gets too close to discovering a shipping container filled with illegal items, a criminal calls in a false alarm to shift the attention elsewhere. It’s even being used against U.S. Border Patrol agents to figure out when and how to best sneak across the border.
Currently, there are few laws that curb criminal drone use. Soon, the FAA hopes to pass two bills. One would make it illegal to turn regular consumer-grade drones into a weaponized drone. The second would make it illegal to fly drones outside of one’s line of sight.
In the meantime, police departments are increasingly using drones as part of their arsenal. In a controversial move, Chicago passed a bill recently that allows police to surveil protesters using drones, according to Gizmodo. Additionally, smaller police departments across the country, including the Oro Valley Police Department in Arizona, are using drones to look for lost people, photograph crime scenes, and more, detailed the Arizona Daily Star.
Drones are powerful tools, both for criminals and law enforcement. Lawmakers are still behind on properly addressing how drones can and cannot be used. It appears that stricter laws must be passed to decrease criminal use of drones. Also, it’s necessary to address drone use by authorities and ensure that their use of drones does not encroach upon people’s Constitutional rights.