Researchers: Aerial Drones Vulnerable To “Hijacking”

With the government set to expand the use of unmanned aerial drones to patrol the US borders and airspace for terrorists, drug runners and floods of illegal immigrants, there comes with it an added price according to researchers. Fox News is reporting that researchers say that terrorists or drug gangs, with the right kind of equipment could turn the drones into “suicide” weapons.

Professor Todd Humphreys and a team of researchers form the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory have exposed the gaping hole in the government’s new aerial drone program…the drones can be commandeered. Humphreys was able to seize control of a drone through his own programed receiver and keep the government locked out from its controls. In the right environment he could have crashed it into a sporting event, a government building or worse.
Humphreys told Fox News,

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,”

“Spoofing” is a relatively new concern in the world of GPS navigation. The only problem that has been on the radar of drone programs has been GPS Jammers, which are basically available all over the internet. Last year when Iran brought down a US spy drone over its airspace it is believed that they used a jammer to confuse the GPS system forcing it to automatically land to preserve its cargo.

Spoofers are a much more dangerous type of technology because they actually mimic a command by the GPS system and convince the drone it is receiving new coordinates. With his device — what Humphreys calls the most advanced spoofer ever built (at a cost of just $1,000) — he was able to override the signal from space with a more powerful signal from the device.

While the government’s new push to include drones in the law enforcement and civilian markets is on track to begin Humphrys is pointing out that each one has the potential to be turned into a missile.

Last Tuesday, in the barren desert of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, officials from the FAA and Department of Homeland Security watched as Humphrey’s team repeatedly took control of a drone from a remote hilltop.
Humphreys said,

“I’m worried about them crashing into other planes. I’m worried about them crashing into buildings. We could get collisions in the air and there could be loss of life, so we want to prevent this and get out in front of the problem.”


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