Last year, a hostage rescue team from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) created an elevated observation platform to evaluate criminal activity below. As they assessed the situation, a hum of small drones was heard and suddenly they were surrounded. The drones flew past the agents at high-speed with the intention of distracting them, which they successfully did.
Joe Mazel, head of the operational technology law unit stated at the AUVSI Xponential conference that the agents were temporarily distracted presenting a new challenge for the FBI’s stakeout team. Although Mazel did not say when or where this incident took place, attendees of the meeting got the message loud and clear. Criminals are now using drones to commit crimes. According to Mazel, the suspects, in this case, had the drones in their backpacks and when the FBI arrived, they deployed the drones as a way to confuse the situation.
Not only did they surprise the rescue team, they were also able to monitor the activities of the operation without the knowledge of the agents. Using the on-board camera and a video feed, the criminals were able to transmit the live feed to other members of the gang via YouTube. Mazel noted that counter surveillance of law enforcement officers is a fast-growing method used by smart criminals to avoid arrest. Some criminal organizations have even started to use drones to intimidate witnesses by tracking, surveilling and making their presence known that they cannot hide from the prying eyes in the sky.
Drones are also being used by criminals when committing break-ins and robberies. Aside from the extensively documented incidents of house break-ins, criminal gangs are also using drones to observe prominent facilities, spot security lapses, and monitor activities like when security guards arrive and leave. In Australia, some criminal gangs have started to use drones as part of their smuggling operations. These criminals will track port authority security workers and if they believe that their contraband is about to be discovered, they’ll set off an emergency alert with a drone just to distract the security.
Criminal use of drones is probably going to get worse before it gets better. There really is no way to resolve the situation except by passing new regulations which may be detrimental to the growth of the drone industry. Although a recent version of the FAA bill says it’s illegal to “weaponize” consumer drones, government regulations have never stopped criminals from breaking the law.