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Drones: What to watch for

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

In April 2014, a 27-year-old Moroccan national was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for numerous immigration violations, but also expressed his desire to attack a federal building in Connecticut using a “remote-controlled, hobby-type airplane.” 

In September 2011, the FBI arrested a 26-year-old U.S. citizen who was plotting to build a small explosives-laden, remote-controlled aircraft to attack several targets in the National Capital Region.  

These two incidents demonstrate a desire for homegrown violent extremists to replicate tactics used by terrorist groups in places like Iraq and Syria, and even in places a little closer to home like Venezuela and Mexico. 

The small unmanned aircraft system, or drone, has quickly become a growing concern for the nation as well as the Department of Defense due to their popularity. These concerns are only exacerbated by the idea that homegrown violent extremists in the U.S. are willing to weaponize these drones in order to further their ideological, religious, or political agenda. This will to turn drones into weapons is a concern we all must take serious at all DoD Installations to include treating any type of SUAS as a potential explosive device or nefarious act. 

If a SUAS is observed flying over the installation or near the installation, personnel must first direct their attention outward and upward to attempt to locate individuals who are holding a controller or device and appear to be operating a SUAS. Look at windows, balconies, rooftops and open spaces. For special events, predetermine likely locations that would enable a person to control a drone. 

Second, personnel should report the incident to Security Forces immediately and then continue to observe the object while maintaining visibility of the device.  Be sure to monitor the direction of travel, any damage to facilities and the location of any suspicious individuals. Take note of and identify the type of device, size, shape, color, payload, video camera equipment and activity. 

Finally, execute appropriate security measures by maintaining a safe environment for the public and first responders. Document event details including photographs of the SUAS, if possible. In the event a drone is discovered on the ground and is inoperable, treat it as a suspicious item. Move to a safe distance and evacuate others away from the device, document the location of the object, call Security Forces immediately, and most importantly, DO NOT TOUCH IT!

Personnel on Peterson AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station should always identify and report potentially suspicious drone activities, whether the drone is flying or it has crashed. Identifying, reporting and implementing security practices are key to successfully managing SUAS incidents. 

Although no single solution can fully mitigate drone incidents, it’s important to understand that implementing these security measures is vital in protecting our personnel and resources from serious injury and damage. If you have any questions, please contact the Installation Antiterrorism Office at 719-556-8170 or 719-556-0425. 

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