Last April 14, the Federal Aviation Administration made it illegal for unauthorized drones to fly over 133 military facilities, but the U.S. Air Force is now asking for more authority to deal with intruding UAVs. As of right now, it is illegal for the Air Force to shoot down trespassing drones. If anyone were to illegally fly a drone onto an air base, then they can basically do nothing to that drone. This is a large problem because consumer drones have a history of interfering with flight operations. Not only are drones a risk to airplanes, but they can also be a security threat if they are being flown in the wrong hands.
What Caused the Air Force to Ask for More Authority?
Air Force Commander James M. Holmes recently recalled an incident of an F-22 plane nearly colliding with an intruding drone at an Air Force breakfast meeting in Washington. According to Flight Global, Commander Holmes explained that a drone and a civil aircraft share similar rules, so he has no authority to shoot down trespassing drones. Tracking down aircraft pilots is easier than tracing rogue drone operators. To further stress the potential security threat, Commander Holmes said, “Imagine a world where somebody flies a couple hundred of those and flies one down the intake of my F-22s with just a small weapon on it.”
What’s the Next Step?
The U.S. Air Force is eagerly waiting for approval to have the right to use anti-drone technology at their nuclear bases. Once that gets passed, a request to extend that authority to other Air Force headquarters will be next.
Taking down a drone is not as easy as it sounds. Even if the Air Force had the authority to shoot down a trespassing UAV, then they will have to rely on more than just guns. Some consumer drones can fly as fast as RC planes, so watch this video to get an idea of how hard it is to actually hit a moving UAV.
The U.S. Air Force will have to use a drone defense strategy. Simply destroying a drone will make it more difficult to track down a pilot. If they wish to prosecute and fine the trespassing drone operator, then the Air Force will have to use something like a DroneGun or a catch and retrieve type of drone security system similar to what Airspace offers.