recommended reading

Domestic drones could be hijacked or jammed, pilots and manufacturers warn

Air Force

Pilots, aircraft manufacturers and privacy groups say the Federal Aviation Administration should ensure that drone aircraft cannot be hijacked or jammed before the agency allows their widespread use in domestic air space.

Pilots and airlines also warned FAA that plans to allow unfettered use of drones across the United States have the potential to degrade safe operations of manned aircraft.

FAA established a rule-making process in March to solicit comments on the establishment of six test sites for remotely piloted aircraft this summer and the eventual integration of drones into domestic air space by 2015, as described in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The agency received 224 comments by the May 8 deadline.

State and local governments and their political leaders used the comment process to promote their regions for selection as one of the six test sites. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., for example, urged FAA to consider the use of its William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City airport as a test site. John “Jack” Dalrymple, governor of North Dakota, told FAA his state has the infrastructure to support a test site and “sparse air space” to ensure safe operations.

Organizations with a stake in manned aircraft operations viewed large-scale operation of drones as a safety threat FAA must manage carefully. This includes protection against hacking of data links. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. said in its filing that the test site management team should have the requisite technical skills to make decisions about drone-control software and the ability to ensure “end-to-end cybersecurity.”

The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association told FAA that drones must be able to navigate if their GPS systems are jammed and manufacturers must include safeguards to protect against potential hijacking.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center warned FAA that “drone hacking, or the process of remotely intercepting and compromising drone operations, poses a threat to the security of lawful drone operations.”

The group also argued FAA should examine the privacy implications inherent in the “unparalleled surveillance capabilities” of drone operations and the risk that surveillance feeds could be intercepted. The agency must weigh the ability of hackers to circumvent encryption codes within surveillance software and manipulate hardware to access surveillance data, EPIC said.

The Airline Pilots Association International told FAA that plans to allow widespread operation of drone aircraft has the potential to “profoundly degrade the safety of the national air space” unless the agency manages integration of the unmanned aircraft in a “responsible, comprehensive manner.”

Airlines for America, the trade group that represents the majority of U.S. passenger and cargo airlines, told FAA that the agency “must ensure that UAS operations do not degrade flight safety or other operations” in the national air space.

The Southwest Pilots Association noted the Defense Department has collected data that shows the accident rate for unmanned systems is more than 100 times the accident rate of passenger aircraft.

The Airline Pilots Association recommended FAA require all drones either have transponders that identify them to air traffic controllers or automatic broadcast equipment that transmits location data.

Similarly, the Southwest Pilots’ Association urged FAA to require all drones operating in domestic airspace have a traffic collision avoidance system that automatically monitors space around aircraft to prevent midair collisions.

Stephen Harris, a lawyer with the Colorado Springs law firm of Alpern Myers Stuart LLC who represents a group working to protect land in southeast Colorado, argued that FAA cannot proceed with its drone test site plans until it completes an environmental impact review of each site.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.