Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was the target Saturday of an alleged assassination attempt carried out by two drones.
If this was indeed a drone attack on a head of state, it is a wake-up call for policymakers and law enforcement officials everywhere.
According to reports, two explosives-laden drones of a type commercially available and commonly used for aerial filmmaking detonated during the dictator’s remarks at a National Guard ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro was not harmed.
One video purports to show one of the drones detonating in midair; the other drone evidently crashed into an apartment building several blocks away and exploded. Seven soldiers reportedly were injured.
It is difficult to judge the accuracy of these accounts, and Maduro’s authoritarian regime hardly deserves the benefit of the doubt—particularly regarding an incident that can be used to justify his further consolidation of power.
But again, this could be a wake-up call. The Islamic State and other terror groups have weaponized commercially available drones in Iraq and Syria, and officials long have warned that it is only a matter of time before those dangers migrate from the battlefield to domestic skies.
It seems that day may have arrived, which means it is past time to finally empower U.S. law enforcement agencies to protect the public from this new airborne threat.
Drones are proliferating around the world, driven mainly by interest in their commercial and recreational potential.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that entrepreneurs and hobbyists are not the only ones to recognize the utility of small drones. International drug cartels are using “narco-drones” to ferry drugs over the heads of Border Patrol agents who are largely powerless to stop them.
Other criminal organizations are using drones to surveil and disrupt law enforcement operations. Criminals are developing their own rudimentary package delivery operations, dropping contraband like weapons and drugs behind prison walls. In Ohio, one of these drops incited a 75-inmate brawl.
Drones also increasingly are sighted in restricted airspace. Pilots report them with increasing frequency near major airports.
Earlier this year, an Army Black Hawk helicopter collided with a drone in New York. In the past week, a near-collision with a helicopter fighting a wildfire in Idaho forced the grounding of all firefighting aircraft.
These incidents reveal two things: High-value targets, such as mass gatherings and critical infrastructure—even hardened targets such as the executive mansion—are exposed and vulnerable to hostile or reckless drones, and U.S. law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped to address these threats.
The alleged attack in Venezuela puts the potential consequences of this dynamic in stark relief.
U.S. law enforcement agencies need counter-drone tools to detect, track, and identify drones that pose a danger to the public and which offer a range of countermeasures options to interdict them in the manner least likely to result in collateral damage.
Private-sector companies already are developing and testing a range of counter-drone technologies, from hacking and jamming tools to lasers and projectile weapons, to shoot them down.
But as it stands, few counter-drone solutions can be employed because multiple federal laws make drone interdiction illegal. One law criminalizes damaging or destroying an “aircraft,” and unbelievably, the Federal Aviation Administration has asserted that this law—written to deter shooting down manned aircraft—applies to drones, meaning they cannot be damaged.
Other statutes and regulations prohibit hacking and jamming tools, which some law enforcement agencies have sought to obtain in the event of a drone threat.
Read the full story from The Daily Signal
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